Slow-worms

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Slow-worm

Scientific name:  Anguis fragilis

Size:  Grows to approximately 50cm in length

Distribution:  Found throughout Scotland, England and Wales.  Absent from Northern Ireland

Months seen:  March to October.  During the winter months slow-worms hibernate underground.  The young are usually born between late July and September

Life Span: Can live for more than 50 years.  Average 30 years

Habitat:  Gardens, parks and rough grassland

Food:  Slugs, spiders and beetles

Special features:  Slow worms, or 'blind worms' as they are sometimes called, look a lot like snakes, but are actually legless lizards.

The body is almost the same thickness from head to tail, with the tip of the tail being blunt.  Slow worms are covered in tiny scales which give them a metallic appearance.  The males are usually brown with a copper or pink flush.  Female slow worms and juveniles are a more golden colour, with a dark line running along the back. Some slow worms have faint blue markings along their body.

The head or the slow worm is short and rounded.  The eyes have rounded pupils and they're equipped with eyelids (unlike snakes which have no eyelids.  The mouth has backward facing, pointed teeth, and the tongue is notched rather than forked like a snake.

If a slow-worm should ever find itself in the unfortunate position of being grabbed by the tail, by a predator, it has a neat little escape trick.  The Latin name (fragilis) gives a clue as to how this works.  The slow-worm can literally shed part of its tail.  This self-amputation is known as "autotomy" and allows the slow-worm to escape, while leaving the tail (still wriggling) in the grip of the predator.

During the winter slow worms hibernate underground, and sometimes in garden compost heaps.


NOTE: Slow worms are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.  It is an offence to kill, harm, injure, sell or trade them in any way.

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