Belongs to: reptiles

Slow worm Anguis fragilis

Best time to see: Apr to mid Oct

Key facts

A legless lizard that is often mistaken for a snake, often found basking under debris

Likes plenty of cover and some dampness: gardens, allotments, hedges, woods, heaths

Found across most of Europe, excluding Ireland, and most of Britain; legally protected


Uniform bronze or grey and, unlike snakes, with eyelids it can close; average length 40 cm of which about half is tail

Spends much of its life underground, emerging at dawn and dusk to hunt for slugs; slow-moving and secretive

Gains heat under sun-warmed objects rather than basking in the open; easiest to see emerging from hibernation late spring


Females use their bodies as mobile incubators, moving round with the sun, producing egg sacs in early autumn

Young are only about 5cm long at birth, silvery-gold with black stripes, but grow rapidly, doubling in size in a few days

Hibernate underground from October to April, or less in mild winters.

© David Corke