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4 Lizards Found in Pennsylvania

Ed Malaker

While there are more than 3,000 species of lizards globally, you will only find four of them here in Pennsylvania. The temperatures are too cold for all but the hardiest reptiles that can withstand the environment. If you live in Pennsylvania and would like to know more about the different species of lizard we have here as well as where you can find them, keep reading while we cover these questions and more to help you determine if these animals would make a good pet.

divider- lizardprintTop 4 Lizards Found in Pennsylvania:

1. Northern Fence Lizard

Northern Fence Lizard side view_James DeBoer_Shutterstock
Image Credit: James DeBoer, Shutterstock
Species: Sceloporus undulatus
Longevity: 2 – 5 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 4 – 8 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The Northern Fence Lizard is also called the Eastern Fence Lizard, Grey Lizard, Pine Lizard, and more. It’s usually between four and six inches long but can grow as long as eight under ideal conditions. It’s usually grey or brown, and you will usually see it in wooded areas with plenty of sunlight and sandy soil. Look for them in the early morning across southern Pennsylvania, where you will usually find them sitting on the fence post, rock pile, or downed tree. Scientists believe that in the last 70 years, the Northern Fence Lizard developed longer legs and new behaviors to escape predation from the Red Imported Fire Ant. These ants could kill one of these lizards in less than one minute without these new defenses.


2. Northern Coal Skink

Species:  Plestiodon anthracinus
Longevity: 5 – 8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Maybe
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 5 – 7 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The Northern Coal Skink was first seen in 1850 when scientists found it in Pennsylvania. However, it is quite rare and elusive, so it isn’t easy to keep as a pet in modern times. It’s a medium-sized lizard that rarely grows larger than 7 inches and is tan or brown with dark brown stripes on its sides. You can usually find them in north-central Pennsylvania.


3. Five Lined Skink

Northern Five-lined skink
Image Credit: Mike Wilhelm, Shutterstock
Species: Plestiodon fasciatus
Longevity: 6 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 5 – 9 inches
Diet: Carnivorous

The American Five-Lined Skink is a smaller-sized lizard that usually grows to about 6 inches, but some may grow larger. It has a dark body with five white to yellow stripes running the length of its body. It changes color as it ages and prefers to stay on the ground where it can find shelter in walls, trees, and rocks. You can find it almost anywhere in Pennsylvania except the extreme north and northeast parts. Some Canadian conservationists list this species as a special concern where it reaches its northern limit and is branching into a new population.


4. Broadhead Skink

male and female broadhead skink
Image Credit: Dwayne Towles, Shutterstock
Species: Plestiodon laticeps
Longevity: 7 – 8 years
Good to own as a pet?: Yes
Legal to own?: Yes
Adult size: 6 – 13 inches
Diet: Omnivore

The Broadhead Skink is the second skink on our list, and it’s also one of the largest, with many growing to 13 inches or more. It gets its name from its wide jaw, and it will usually have a brown or olive-brown body with a bright orange head that will look attractive in any habitat. Unfortunately, you can only see these lizards in a small part of southeastern Pennsylvania, where you will find the northern tip of their natural habitat.divider- reptile paw

Poison Lizards in Pennsylvania

Fortunately, none of the lizards found in Pennsylvania are poisonous to humans.

Small Lizards in Pennsylvania

The Northern Fence Lizard is the smallest lizard you can find in Pennsylvania. It usually grows no larger than about 5 inches, though you might see larger specimens on occasion.

Big Lizards in Pennsylvania

The largest lizard in Pennsylvania is the Broadhead Skink. This reptile not only grows to more than one foot long in many cases, but it also has a wide triangle head that makes it appear bulky.

Invasive Lizards in Pennsylvania

Fortunately, there are no invasive species of lizards in Pennsylvania. Experts warn that all owners need to be careful that their reptile does not escape, whether it’s a non-native lizard in Pennsylvania or a Pennsylvania native lizard in another state. Any reptile that gets free has a risk of starting a feral population and becoming an invasive species.

divider- lizardprintConclusion

While Pennsylvania has a climate too cold for many lizards, there are still four able to exist here. They are all non-poisonous and make great pets. However, we recommend purchasing a captive-bred lizard from a reputable breeder instead of catching them in the wild, harming the natural habitat, especially with the rare Northern Coal Skink.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this list and found the answers to your questions. If you learned something new, please share this guide to the four lizards found in Pennsylvania on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Jason Patrick Ross, Shutterstock

Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.