Virginia is home to a number of native and non-native lizard species. Red-eared sliders, Mediterranean house geckos, and Italian wall lizards are a few of the non-native reptiles that have established reproducing populations in Virginia. The commonwealth is now home to another lizard species – the green anole.
According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the lizards arrived as hitch-hikers on nursery plants being shipped from Florida or released as unwanted pets.
“We’ve always thought maybe because of warming climates, they would shift north and naturally come to Virginia, but we have not seen that happen,” said J.D. Kleopfer, who studies reptiles and amphibians for the commonwealth of Virginia. “If this was a natural range extension, it would be in Back Bay, False Cape and southern Virginia Beach first.”
The green anoles are native to the southeastern United States. They have showed up in inland and suburban areas which means they most likely arrived on houseplants that came from the south.
Green anoles have been documented in the cities of Blacksburg, Franklin, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, but only Virginia Beach has evidence of a reproducing population.
The lizard species was quite popular in the 1970s and was sold in pet stores as a Chameleon. However, they aren’t true chameleons since they can only switch between brown and green colors.
Red-eared sliders are also native to the Southern US and Central America and, thanks to the pet trade, have become an invasive species in Virginia.
The Mediterranean Geckos were first reported in Virginia in November 2016.
Also known as Anolis carolinensis, the green anole has an average length of 5 inches and can extend up to a maximum length of 9.2 inches.
Kleopfer has deemed the species safe and has asked residents to send photos of the reptile to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources if someone happens to see it.