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Sand lizard

Sand lizard

Sand lizards have never been widespread or common in the New Forest and they became extinct here in the 1970s. A captive breeding programme was started by Forestry England in the 1980s and they were re-introduced into one or two sites in the 1990s. The heaths of Hampshire, Dorset and Surrey are the stronghold of sand lizards in the UK with just a scattering of sites elsewhere in England and Wales and only one Scottish site.

Their habitat is undisturbed heathland and they are under threat from development, wildfires and lack of appropriate management leading to the growth of trees, scrub and bracken. They are particularly vulnerable to changes affecting the warm, sandy sites where the female buries her eggs. It is important that their heathland habitat is kept open by grazing or the felling of invading trees. The re-introduction sites are not made public so that the sand lizards are not disturbed.

Sand lizards live for up to 10 years on a diet of earthworms, spiders and insects such as flies and beetles. The re-introduction programme seems to be a success with sand lizards now breeding in one area of the New Forest again.

ID Tip

ID Tip

Sand lizards are larger and stockier than the common lizard, reaching 16-22cm in length. Their body colour is brown with oscillate markings (dark blotches with lighter coloured centres). The sides of the male’s body become bright green during the breeding season in early summer. Sand lizards can be distinguished from the similar common lizard by their very clear oscillate markings and, in spring and summer, by the bright green colouration, especially on the sides.

Lead Ranger


'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of August.'

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