If you’re interested in Illinois’s fauna because you plan to travel or even more there, I got your back.
Today, we will discuss several of the many lizard species you’re likely to encounter in Illinois’s wilderness.
Let’s jump straight in!
It may sound wrong for the first entry on a lizard list to be a snake, and it would be wrong if the glass snake were an actual snake. But it’s not, it’s a lizard.
This one is also known as the glass lizard or the legless lizard because it’s basically a lizard without legs. This causes it to look like a snake if it weren’t for the clear-cut lizard head and facial features.
The ‘glass’ part in the reptile’s name comes from the animal’s shiny and glass-like skin. Glass lizards measure up to 3.5 feet and come with a slender and slim body that retains the same girth from the head almost to the tail. The tail is thinner toward the tip.
Glass lizards prefer to live in open areas, usually covered with grass and loose, sandy soil. They are also quite prevalent in agricultural areas and wetlands near various bodies of water for easy access to all the necessary resources.
These lizards have a varied diet that includes insects, small reptiles, small amphibians, and even small mammals. The preferred hunting method relies on ambush and striking fast.
They possess no venom and cannot constrict their prey because only snakes do that. So, the lizard relies on its jaw strength to crush its prey and swallow it whole shortly after.
From a behavioral stance, glass lizards are very elusive and secretive. They will never confront their attackers, as they prefer to flee and hide instead.
Interesting fact: Glass lizards can lose their tails when attacked by predators, but they cannot grow them back. Also, this specie’s ability to lose its tail has led to the emergence of the myth that snakes can lose and regenerate their tails, which is false.
The entire myth is simply based on mistaken identity because people confuse legless lizards for snakes.
Eastern Collared Lizard
Eastern collared lizards are chameleon-level cute thanks to their exquisite coloring and overall harmless appearance. These lizards won’t grow larger than a foot in length but come with long athletic legs and very long tails.
Most individuals are blue with yellow or orange heads and white spots sprinkled across the entire back.
All easter collared lizards also have 2 black neck collars that play both aesthetic and practical roles. The lizard uses them as warning signs against intruders and to communicate with the opposite sex during the mating phase.
This species is more prevalent in open woodlands, prairies, and rocky ecosystems, where they hunt a variety of prey, including insects, other small lizards, snakes, spiders, and even small mammals like mice.
Their favorite hunting technique involves stalking and active chasing, as the reptile is quite speedy and agile.
In terms of behavior, Eastern collared lizards qualify as territorial and rather confrontational. They prefer to run and hide but won’t back down immediately when confronted.
Instead, they resort to posturing up and flaring their neck collars to intimidate predators.
Interesting fact: These lizards can also inflate their neck pouch, raise their heads, and arch their backs, similar to a cat, to appear larger and more intimidating.
They rely on this behavior during territorial fights, mating confrontations, and when attacked by various predators, and the lizard doesn’t have time to flee from the get-go.
Mediterranean geckos are some of the cutest reptiles in the region that also reside in other areas of the globe, including Turkey and other Mediterranean European countries.
This species doesn’t grow larger than 5 inches and comes with a brown/pinkish body and small legs. The head has the shape of a spearhead and has 2 large and round eyes attached to it.
This lizard is notorious for 2 primary reasons: its predilection for hunting near light sources at night in areas swarmed by light-loving insects and its relentless chirping.
This tiny lizard inhabits a variety of ecosystems, primarily warm and dry, and semi-arid regions, but are also popular in urban and suburban areas.
They typically gather near various water sources and rely on their ecosystem’s layout to escape predation.
Look for them in rock crevices and in the cracks of buildings, where they can hide with ease.
These nocturnal predators feed on crickets, butterflies, moths, roaches, and any other insect or worm they can catch.
Interesting fact: They are also notoriously voracious, capable of consuming large quantities of insects over a short period of time. This makes them quite valuable as a pest-control species.
Eastern Fence Lizard
The eastern fence lizard is an innocuous one, as this species grows up to 7 inches and has amazing camouflaging abilities.
This small reptile is prevalent throughout the Southeast US and is mostly found in forests, open areas, and environments with a lot of trees and logs for hiding purposes.
The lizard comes in several colors, primarily brown and black, but most individuals also display blue marks on the neck and underbelly.
The reptile’s body also displays wave-like patterns, making the animal resemble a piece of wood. This allows it to render itself almost invisible when resting against a log or a tree trunk.
This lizard is also insectivorous, feeding on anything that crawls or flies, including crickets, locusts, various roaches, spiders, and other invertebrates.
The preferred hunting tactic involves moving across tree trunks in a similar manner to how a squirrel would. This allows the lizard to chase its prey with incredible agility, which is also its primary weapon against predators.
So, you’re unlikely to spot or catch one without significant effort.
Interesting fact: While this species qualifies as terrestrial, you will rarely spot these lizards actually moving on the ground.
They prefer to crawl across the surface of tree trunks, drawing circles around them whenever they sense prey or looking to evade predators.
Common Five-Lined Skink
This is another relatively small species, capable of reaching 8 inches in size. The five-lined skink is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful specimens on today’s list.
The lizard comes with an almost cylindrical body and appears to be missing its neck. The head is thick and resembles that of a turtle in the sense that it doesn’t have a distinctive shape.
It’s just like an extension of the lizard’s body with no visible distinction in terms of shape.
Most individuals are black or dark brown with 5 distinct white or cappuccino stripes traversing the entire body head-to-tail.
The lizard also possesses small legs with long fingers and an even longer blue tail. There are plenty of reasons to love how it looks, as you can see.
This is also an insectivorous species that loves to hunt near rivers, bottomland forests, and anywhere else where there are trees and vegetation.
The lizard’s favorite meals include various insects, no matter their size and species; this one eats everything it can catch.
Interesting fact: Baby five-lined skinks are thought to have very bad taste, which increases their survivability in the wild.
No predator wants to eat foul-tasting prey. That being said, some don’t mind.
This is another arboreal species, this time slightly larger than the latter few we’ve discussed. The broad-headed skink can reach 12-13 inches in size and comes with a thick, almost fat body.
The reptile is brown with a broad, amphibian-like red head at one end. The lizard is clearly beautiful, despite its obvious simplicity.
Broad-headed skinks prefer to live in forests with lush vegetation and preferably a lot of oak trees. Hence, the alternate name of the oak tree lizard. Males tend to choose several trees as preferred territorial boundaries and will protect them against other broad-headed skinks fiercely.
The lizard has a varied diet, consisting of all the insects it can catch, with no particular preferences.
Interesting fact: While broad-headed skinks can consume any insects, they prefer to focus on those qualified as ‘hidden prey.’ These are insects, worms, and larvae that are hidden from sight under foliage or in the ground.
It’s why the lizard is often spotted on the ground, looking for food by digging under the leaves and into the soil.
Upon catching larger prey, the broad-headed skink drags it to its preferred hiding nest to consume it in peace.
Little Brown Skink
The little brown skink lives up to its name in terms of size and appearance. This species can only reach 2 quarters of an inch, and it displays a shiny brown, making it almost impossible to spot on leaf-covered soil.
The lizard may appear as a small snake at first glance thanks to its long and shiny body with very short legs. The distance between the front and hind legs is also larger than in other species.
This is a terrestrial species that prefers to move through the leaf litter, where they find food and shelter from predators.
The lizard’s diet consists of very small insects, tiny spiders, millipedes, and earthworms.
Interesting fact: The female keeps the eggs inside until the embryo is almost fully developed. This is to shorten the incubation time up to only 22 days after they are laid.
As the name suggests, this one is a champion runner. The six-lined racerunner is very similar in appearance to the five-lined skink, except for the longer body (up to 10 inches) and the very long hindlegs with even longer toes.
The length of the hindlegs is indicative of the lizard’s speed-oriented body composition.
These terrestrial reptiles move fast across the ground and are capable of sharp turns and amazing boosts of speed.
This allows them to hunt any insect, spider, and even scorpion with ease and evade predators in the blink of an eye.
Six-lined racerunners are more prevalent in rocky hillsides, near sand or gravel roads, and in the vicinity of railroads. They prefer open areas with clean soil and some sporadic vegetation.
This type of landscape is great for a ground reptile that uses speed and agility as primary forms of locomotion.
Interesting fact: This species has a variety of natural predators, including collared lizards, snakes, birds like roadrunners, badges, armadillos, etc.
Despite this, the lizard thrives in the wild thanks to its speed, spatial awareness, and reaction time.
As you can see, Illinois is rich in lizards, as there are numerous species you can find in the wild.
But, as this list has pointed out, many of these are very difficult to spot in the wild due to their camouflaging abilities, speed, and overall lifestyle.