Reptiles Native to Kentucky

By Nancy Hayden

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Kentucky has a wide range of natural habitats such as open grasslands, woodlands, mountainous areas and lakes. In these many and varied habitats, numerous reptile species thrive. Some of the species can be found throughout the state, while others are found in small population pockets or in just a few counties.

Lizards

Kentucky is home to five species of lizard. The largest native species is the broad-headed skink which grows to 13 inches in length and is found throughout the state. The smallest is the ground skink, growing to just 5 inches in length. It too is found in much of Kentucky. The other three native species are the fence lizard, six-lined racerunner and five-lined skink. All five species are relatively common in the state.

Turtles

The state is home to seven species of turtle. The eastern box turtle is the only one which is terrestrial, as the other six spend most of the time in river or lake habitats. The largest native species is the common snapping turtle which grows to 19 inches long. The smallest species is the mud turtles which grows to just 5 inches in length. The state's other turtle species are the smooth soft shell, red-eared slider, common musk and the painted.

Snakes

Kentucky is the native home of 12 nonvenomous snake species. The state's largest snake species is the pine snake. It grows to over 8 feet in length and is found in a few isolated populations throughout the state. The smallest snake species in the state is the milk snake. It grows to just 20 inches in length and is found commonly throughout Kentucky. The other local species are the common king, black racer, corn, water diamondback, common garter, mud, northern water, rat, red-bellied water and ring-neck snakes.

Venomous Snakes

The state is home to four venomous snake species, two of which are rattlesnakes. The timber rattler grows to over 6 feet in length and is found in much of the state. The pygmy rattlesnake grows to just over 2 feet in length and is found in only a few counties in southwest Kentucky. The copperhead grows to just over 4 feet and is common throughout the state. Its close relative, the cottonmouth, grows to over 6 feet in length and is found mainly in the far western part of the state.

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