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2 Native Lizards in Michigan

Lizards in Michigan” may not be a phrase you hear often, given that only two native species exist in the region. These elusive creatures, although seldom seen, play an integral role in managing insect and spider populations, contributing significantly to Michigan’s ecological balance.

Discover the intriguing characteristics of these two unique lizard species, shedding light on their fascinating existence in the heart of Michigan.

Lizards in Michigan


1. Five-lined Skink

Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon fasciatus
  • Other Names: American
  • Adult Size: 4.9 to 8.5 in. (12.5 to 21.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Average Price Range: $12

The five-lined skink is a lizard native to the eastern United States, and is found all across Michigan. This species is terrestrial, living in moist woodland habitats. They are common near water sources, and hide under objects like rocks, logs, and thick vegetation. This species is active in the day, seen from the months of spring to fall.

Five-lined skinks are named after the five lines that run down their body, which have a yellowish coloring. Black, olive to brown in color, the five-lined skink when born has a bright blue tail, which fades with age. Males of this species are larger than females, but overall this lizard is medium-sized.

The spring and summer is when this lizard mates. Males will mate with multiple females, while females can only mate with one male, and cannot store sperm like other lizards. This species lays up to 18 eggs, which they lay around a month after mating. Females lay their eggs in secluded areas, and guard them until they hatch.

Five-lined skinks feed on insects, and other small invertebrates. They have even been reported eating animals like small mice, and amphibians. Predators like snakes, birds, and carnivorous mammals are what prey on this species.


2. Six-lined Racerunner

Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata)
Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata)
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Teiidae
  • Scientific Name: Aspidoscelis sexlineata
  • Other Names: Sandlapper lizard
  • Adult Size: 6 to 9.5 in. (15 to 24 cm.)
  • Lifespan: 4 to 5 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

The six-lined racerunner is only known in Michigan from a population in the east-central portion of the state. This lizard lives in dry, rocky habitats like fields, and roadsides. Six-lined racerunners are native to the eastern United States, and while found in Michigan they are very rare to come across.

Six-lined racerunners are a very long species, with a long tail. They are named after the six stripes that run down their back from their head to their tail. This species has long toes, with tan, olive, or black body coloring. The stripes that appear on this species are yellow, or orange in color.

Active in the day, this lizard is mainly seen until noon, and is spotted most from spring to fall. Six-lined racerunners are very quick, able to reach up to 18 mph (29 kmh). The speed of this species helps them catch insect prey, but also allows them to escape predators.

In Michigan this species is not only rare, but is a species of concern due to their limited population. Humans destroying their habitat is why their population is under increased threats.


Why are there so few lizard species that live in Michigan?

Michigan is a very cold state, and in the winter reaches extremely freezing temperatures, which is why there are very few reptiles in the state. Lizards are not able to tolerate the cold environment in Michigan, but there are still a few species you may come across.

Are the lizards in Michigan dangerous? 

The only venomous lizard in the United States is the gila monster, but is not found in Michigan. Lizards in Michigan are not harmless, but if they are provoked they may bite. Lizards, if spotted, typically flee, and hide. The germs a lizard has is their most dangerous trait, which is why you should wash your hands after handling one.

Wrapping up

Lizards being such interesting animals are often kept as pets, but you should thoroughly research a species if you plan on getting one. You should never take a lizard you find from the wild to keep as a pet, as they typically die quicker, and are one cog in a larger working ecosystem.

The lizards in Michigan are just a small portion of the thousands of species that live around the globe. Lizards can be identified by their behavior, body structure, location, and coloring. While very secretive you can find lizards almost anywhere from your backyard, to deep in a forest.  As you learn more about various lizard species it will become much easier to spot, and identify the ones found in the wild.

Other lizards in nearby states

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