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The Slow Worm is about 35 cms in length. Brown or coppery in colour with brown sides or a brown dorsal stripe. The males tend not to have a brown stripe and are often plain brown or grey with a larger head. Slow Worms are lizards and not snakes. They have the ‘remains’ of legs on their skeletons. They also have eyelids and can blink, something snakes are unable to do.
The Slow Worm is perhaps the most frequently encountered reptile species within Herefordshire. In some areas it is very common. Found in rough grassland meadows, marsh and derelict ground, railway embankments, woodland edges and wild gardens. It likes to hide in compost heaps or under old tin or carpet. It is also found in overgrown churchyards.
It is very fond of slugs and snails, especially the small white or grey slugs, but it will also take other invertebrates.
Try putting down some corrugated tin or old carpeting/mats to attract Slow Worms. If you have them in your garden they will help to keep down the pests. If you see one, don’t pick it up, as it is likely to shed it’s tail as a defensive strategy. Tails do grow back, but are never as good as the original.
Slow Worms are predated on by badgers, foxes, hedgehogs and birds. They have been known to live for over 50 years.
Viviparous or Common Lizard +
Viviparous or Common Lizard -
The Viviparous Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) is light brown with dark spots and stripes. The belly is normally orange. The young, 3-6, are born live. Distribution is localised like the Adder, frequenting the same type of habitat – rough grassland, heath land, marshland, wooded edges and hedgerows. It has a scattered distribution in Herefordshire.
This lizard preys on mainly spiders and grasshoppers, but will take other insects.
It is normally seen on warm summer days, basking in an open area amongst vegetation, usually on a dead tree stump or rock. They flatten their bodies to absorb as much heat as possible from the sun, and are real ‘sun lovers’. If you disturb a lizard it will move very quickly. Like the Slow Worm a lizard is likely to shed its tail if handled.
The lizard is not to be confused with a newt. The lizard’s tail is round, whilst the newt’s is flattened. Newts are very slow moving when compared to lizards. The lizard also has a scaly body which the newt does not.