Wisconsin Status: Endangered
Federal Status: Not listed
The name for this lizard is appropriate, for when it is caught, this reptile twists and jumps frantically to escape, and sometimes, its tail breaks off, like glass, into many pieces. This is the lizard's secret escape method. The tail will grow back, but it will be darker in color and shorter than the original. It is rare to find a slender glass lizard with its original tail.
Glass lizards have no legs. Because of its snake-like appearance, this lizard is often mistaken for a snake. You can identify it by its pointed snout, narrow head, and long cylindrical body that reaches about 18-36 inches. It has no limbs. The slender glass lizard's body can be tan, brown, or bronze with a dark brown to black stripe running along the middle of the back from head to tail. Two additional dark brown to black stripes run immediately above the lateral groove and four narrow stripes run below the groove. The side of the head and neck have scattered brown markings and the underside is white to light yellow. You will find this species in central Wisconsin in oak savannas, sand prairies, old fields, and pine barrens.
The slender glass lizard is active from May to September, eating just about anything it can fit into its mouth including beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and other grassland invertebrates. In sandy or loose soil, they burrow and spend a lot of time underground. They are extremely active on warm sunny days. You won't see them slithering like snakes on their stomachs. They only use their sides to push themselves off of debris or vegetation to slide in a sideways motion. When they reach a smooth surface, usually a road, they may get onto the pavement through the grass, but become stranded in a dangerous place.
The slender glass lizard was placed on the Wisconsin Endangered and Threatened Species List in 1979 because of its loss of habitat and low numbers. Since 1985, glass lizards have been found in Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake, Adams, Juneau, Monroe, Columbia, Sauk, and LaCrosse counties.
To help this lizard out, you can educate others about this animal. It is important for the slender glass lizard to have the right habitat. Encourage conservation organizations to purchase and manage oak savannas, sand prairies, and other prime habitat in central Wisconsin. Prescribed burns, fires and mowing are very important tools for managing the habitat for the lizard.
You can also help by letting the DNR know when you see this lizard and other reptiles that are endangered. We need to collect more information about where these reptiles and amphibians live. The Wisconsin Herptile Atlas Project is doing just this by recording sightings of reptiles and amphibians. To get involved please write to: The Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233.