The Florida scrub lizard is aptly named, as this lizard lives only in Florida. Its grayish-brown color helps it blend into its surroundings and avoid detection by predators. Florida scrub lizards are beneficial to people, as they help keep spider and insect populations under control.
Florida scrub lizards (Sceloporous woodi) are covered in rough scales and have long tails. The lizards are approximately 5½ inches long, with a tail length of approximately 3 inches. Both males and females have a brown stripe that extends from the neck to the beginning of the tail. A series of wavy bars on the back are more noticeable in females. Females also have a pale or white belly, while males are more colorful and have bright blue patches bordered by black on their throats and sides.
Florida scrub lizards live in dry, sandy areas, including those with sand hills or pine or oak scrub trees. They’re also found on sandy patches of land at the edge of forests. The Animal Diversity Web website notes that most Florida scrub lizards live in the Ocala National Forest in the north-central part of the state. The forest features a large area of sand pine scrubs and offers the perfect habitat for the lizards. Sandy areas near the Florida panhandle and in parts of the Atlantic and Southwestern Gulf coasts also provide habitats for the lizards.
Mating season starts at the end of March and continues through June. Female lizards lay two to eight eggs in the sand as early as April and can repeat the process up to five times during the spring and summer. Fully formed lizards emerge from the eggs approximately 75 days after they are laid, although hatching time can decrease as the weather gets warmer. It takes 10 to 11 months for the new lizards to reach sexual maturity.
Construction of new houses and businesses destroys Florida scrub lizard habitats, resulting in a decrease in the number of the lizards. They tend to stay on one sand patch and don’t move to other areas once a habitat is destroyed. Another threat to the lizard habitat is the planting of orange trees or other crops in the sandy soil. Wildfires create new lizard habitats because they burn away trees and vegetation, leaving only sandy soil behind, but they are usually quickly extinguished by concerned residents. Because of this habitat loss, the Florida Committee on Rare and Endangered Plants and Animals lists the Florida scrub lizard as threatened. The University of Florida IFAS Extension recommends the use of prescribed burns to reduce growth of vegetation and keep the ground clear for the lizards.