If you live in the woody uplands of Greater Jacksonville, you’re in the right neighborhood to experience a GR8RJax™ first.
Kick up the leaves after a heavy rain, and you might just meet the Florida Worm Lizard.
No, it’s not a monster from some B-grade sci-fi movie.
As you’d expect from the name, it’s rare. No mere native of South Georgia and Northeast and Central Florida, the species exists only here.
How Will I Know If I’ve Found One?
Oh, you’ll know. They’re funny looking.
The Florida Worm Lizard (Rhineura floridana) is pinkish-white to white in color.
It’s between 6 – 10 inches long, legless and blind. Late in summer (right about now) the females lay eggs, oblong and 1 – 3 inches long. It is the only species of banded, blind legless lizard indigenous to Florida and North America.
Like the hognose snakes you may have found, worm lizards burrow. They prefer loose, sandy soil and oak and pine litter. Because they’re very fair-skinned, they stay out of direct sunlight.
They’re carnivorous, too.
In their range, worm lizards are rare, though there’s not much pressure on their population because there’s still plenty of good habitat. Currently there’s no reason to consider them endangered, but they’re also not officially a protected species yet.
The fossil record shows that worm lizards lived in North American as long as 60 million years ago. Once very common, they are extinct everywhere but here.
Every place has to be famous for something. San Diego has sea slugs. We have worm lizards.
Learn to love them.
So, GJE, What Should I Do If I See One?
If your worm lizard is high and dry and safe and likely to stay that way, leave it alone.
If your worm lizard is impeding progress – a new flower bed, in-ground pool, outdoor kitchen, etc. – call your local Agricultural Extension agent for advice.
Although each county has an extension agent through the University of Florida, the local worm lizard dude is Ray Zerba.
You may have read Mr. Ray’s question-and-answer column in Neighbor To Neighbor, Clay Today and the Clay County Leader. There’s even a form you can fill out on the IFAS web site so you can ask him a question.
You’ll find the relevant contact info below.
Agricultural Extension Service – Environmental Horticulture
- Clay County Extension Office
- 2463 State Road 16 W, P.O. Box 278
- Green Cove Springs, FL 32043
- Phone: 904.284.6355
- Fax: 904.529.9776
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OFFICIAL BIO:K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years, most recently in Texas, is a successful grant writer, knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design and wants to work in the public sector. Contact: [email protected]