Slow-worm

Anguis fragilis

  1. Wildlife
  2. Reptiles
  3. Slow-worm

About

Despite their name and appearance, slow-worms are neither worms nor snakes, but are in fact lizards - they're given away by their ability to shed their tails and blink with their eyelids. They can be found in heathland, tussocky grassland, woodland edges and rides: anywhere they can find invertebrates to eat and a sunny patch in which to sunbathe. They are often found in mature gardens and allotments, where they like hunting around the compost heap. However, if you have a cat, you are unlikely to find them in your garden as cats predate them. Like other reptiles, slow-worms hibernate, usually from October to March.

How to identify

Much smaller than snakes, with smooth, golden-grey skin. Males are paler and sometimes have blue spots, while females are larger with dark sides and a dark stripe down the back.

Where to find it

Widespread, found throughout the country, except for most Scottish islands and absent from Northern Ireland.

Habitats

When to find it

  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

How can people help

The loss of our heathland and grassland habitats through human activity threatens the survival of our reptiles. The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with planners, developers and farmers to ensure these habitats are protected by fostering Living Landscape schemes: networks of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can help: look after slow-worms and other reptiles in your garden by leaving piles of logs for hibernating beneath. In partnership with the RHS, The Wildlife Trusts' Wild About Gardens initiative can help you plan your wildlife garden.

Local information

Slow-worms are found across Worcestershire and are often more frequent in urban areas such as allotments and railways sidings. They love compost heaps where they find warmth and plenty of food. Slow-worms are also found in grasslands, heathlands, sunny banks and hillsides. Although rare elsewhere, they are relatively common in certain areas of Worcestershire and the County’s populations are nationally significant.

Trust reserves where they have been found include The Betts, Trench Wood, Penny Hill Bank, The Knapp and Papermill, Chaddesley and Randan Wood. The City of Worcester has a very large population of slow-worms and could lay claim to be the most important city in Britain for this shy reptile. Recent survey work by the City Council has shown that the abundance of green spaces and allotments hold good numbers of what is becoming a scarce creature.

They are very vulnerable to modern farming and gardening practices. If you think you have slow-worms avoid being too tidy – leave piles of wood, leaves and uncut grass in places for slow-worms to hibernate in. You can even create your own slow-worm sanctuary in your wildlife area using bits of old carpet and metal sheeting. If you see a slow-worm please don’t disturb it. When mowing grass allow some areas to stay long for slow-worms to hide in and be careful when mowing or strimming in case you injure or kill slow-worms.

Please report any sightings.
 

Species information

Common name
Slow-worm
Latin name
Anguis fragilis
Category
Reptiles
Statistics
Length: 30-40cm Weight: 20-100g Average Lifespan: up to 20 years
Conservation status
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.