Reptiles

Sand Lizard

The New Forest National Park is home to all six of the UK’s native reptile species:

  • adder
  • sand lizard
  • slow-worm
  • grass snake
  • common lizard
  • smooth snake

 

Reptiles are cold-blooded vertebrates with dry skins, and they derive their body heat directly from their environment. They like to bask in warm, dry areas with good surrounding cover so that they can escape if a predator approaches. Open areas with sandy soils that heat up quickly are the best habitats for them and this makes the New Forest with its heathlands an ideal area.

Heathland destruction elsewhere means that the New Forest has become an important haven for them.  In winter they hibernate underground and emerge again the following spring.

The main predators of reptiles are birds such as crows, birds of prey and especially pheasants. Foxes and badgers will also take them if they find them.

The name reptile is late Middle English, originating in the Latin repere, meaning ‘to creep’.

Lizards are carnivorous. They have eyelids and can therefore blink, unlike snakes. They can shed their tails when they are attacked; the tail will re-grow.

Snakes are legless reptiles: as they grow they shed their old skin, which peels away as a papery cast of the animal’s body. There is an old and widespread belief that a snakeskin could cure a headache, and many country-dwellers with hangovers used to put an old snakeskin inside their hats.

If you want to see a snake or lizard in its natural environment, try looking on south-facing slopes, on logs, along the edge of scrub and in areas with mature heather.

All British reptiles are protected by law, and it is an offence to kill, injure or trade any of them.

All of the native reptile species can be viewed at the Forestry Commission’s New Forest Reptile Centre, which is open from 10am - 4.30pm between April and September, and can be found off the A35 about 3km west of Lyndhurst. The centre actively encourages the conservation and re-introduction of these animals across the country.

  1. Reptiles (you are here)
  2. Adder
  3. Sand lizard
  4. Slow-worm
  5. Grass snake
  6. Common lizard
  7. Smooth snake

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