An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Kentucky’s reptiles occur in a wide variety of habitats. In general, our lizards tend to prefer dry, open areas although some types of skinks occur in damp woodlands as well. The snakes form a highly variable group from a habitat perspective; some are largely aquatic and must live in and near water; others are primarily terrestrial. Some kinds of snakes spend most of their time underground in burrows and small mammal runways, and some are largely arboreal and spend most of their time climbing among trees, shrubs, and vines. Most Kentucky turtles (13 of 14) are basically aquatic and leave the water only to make overland migrations between water bodies or to lay their eggs. Only 1 species (Eastern Box Turtle) is terrestrial. All of Kentucky’s lizards and snakes are carnivorous; most turtles are more omnivorous as adults and largely carnivorous as hatchlings, but our four kinds of map turtles feed almost completely on freshwater invertebrates.
KDFWR pays special attention to about 46% of the Kentucky reptile fauna (4 lizards, 16 snakes, and 6 turtles) in response to a variety of conservation issues. Some species have extremely limited ranges in the state, some occur only in widely scattered colonies and are disappearing due to long-term changes in habitat, and others are becoming scarce for unknown reasons. In addition, we keep track of a few species that are doing just fine here in Kentucky but are declining in some of our neighboring states. Some of KDFWR’s activities on behalf of these reptiles include spotting scope surveys and transect counts for basking snakes and turtles, laying out and regularly checking coverboards and old roofing tin to track snake and lizard numbers in selected areas, nighttime road cruising for snakes, surveying new areas and habitats, identifying snakes from photos and shed skins submitted to KDFWR from the public, supporting university research, and creating detailed occurrence maps for each species to provide a baseline for future work.
A complete list of reptile species known from Kentucky appears below. Those marked with asterisks (**) are currently being studied, tracked, monitored, or given special management consideration as a
species of greatest conservation need under
Kentucky’s Wildlife Action Plan.
Glass Lizards (1)
Fence Lizards (1)
Five-lined Skink, Photo by John R. MacGregor
Pit Vipers (4)
Egg-laying Harmless Snakes (15)
Live-bearing Harmless Snakes (13)
Corn Snake, Photo by John R. MacGregor
Snapping Turtles (2)
Mud and Musk Turtles (2)
Pond and Box Turtles (8)