2 LEGLESS Lizards Found in Virginia! (ID Guide)

How many LEGLESS lizards are there in Virginia?”

common legless lizards in Virginia


You might be asking yourself, isn’t a legless lizard just a snake? And you aren’t far off!


Scientifically speaking, legless lizards come from a different branch of the reptile tree than snakes.


But for the rest of us, we need to look at their eyes! Legless lizards have MOVABLE eyelids, which are a dead giveaway that you have found one. Snakes, on the other hand, have see-through membranes that protect their eyes.


Today, you’ll learn the 2 kinds of LEGLESS lizards in Virginia.


#1. Slender Glass Lizard

  • Ophisaurus attenuatus

types of legless lizards in Virginia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 22 to 47 inches long.
  • Coloring is generally brown to black, with whitish markings in the middle of the scales.
  • Younger individuals have dark stripes along the back and sides, and older individuals develop faint crossbands.


Slender Glass Lizards live in dry grasslands and open forests in Virginia.


They eat insects, spiders, small rodents, and small lizards. However, unlike snakes, they do not have flexible jaws, which means they can only eat prey smaller than their head!

United States Geological Survey (USGS)


Glass lizards are named for their extremely fragile tails, which can break off even without being touched. Slender Glass Lizards are rarely found with their original tail intact because they break so often! If you notice that the end of its tail is tan with no stripes, you can be sure the lizard lost its original tail.


You’re likely to find a Slender Glass Lizard in animal burrows or piles of debris.


There are two subspecies:

  • Western Slender Glass Lizards (O. attenuatus attenuatus), the tail is shorter.
  • Eastern Slender Glass Lizards (O. attenuatus longicaudus) have longer tails.


#2. Eastern Glass Lizard

  • Ophisaurus ventralis

species of legless lizards in Virginia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 18 to 43 inches long.
  • Coloring is greenish to black, with a light yellow or tan belly.
  • Light-colored dots or dashes form irregular rows on the back; no stripes are present.


The Eastern Glass Lizard is at home in southeastern Virginia in grasslands and pine forests, tropical hardwood groves, and wet meadows.


They eat insects and other invertebrates and will forage for food both above ground and below.

Virginia Herpetological Society

Although they can create their own burrows, they use the burrows of other animals more often. For example, it’s common to find Eastern Glass Lizards in the burrows of small rodents like mice and voles or snakes and other lizards.


Do you need additional help identifying legless lizards?

Try this field guide!


Which of these legless lizards have you seen in Virginia?


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