Nonnative Reptiles in South Florida: Identification Guide1

Laura M. Early, Christy A. Harry, Rebecca G. Harvey, and Frank J. Mazzotti 2

This document is best viewed in pdf form. All photos are property of University of Florida unless otherwise noted.

  • The nonnative reptiles shown here are native to Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. They were introduced to south Florida by human activity.

  • Invasive species harm native species through direct predation, competition for resources, spread of disease, and disruption of natural ecosystems. Many of the nonnative reptiles on this guide are, or have the potential to become, invasive.

  • Use this guide to identify invasive species and immediately report sightings of the black and white tegu, Nile monitor, and all invasive snakes to 1-888-IVE-GOT1. Take a photo and note the location relative to street intersections or with a GPS if possible.

  • More photos can be found at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/herpetology.htm.

  • Be certain that an animal is a nonnative species before removing it. Warning—most reptiles will bite or scratch if provoked.

Nonnative species are sometimes confused with the Florida natives shown because their colorations and patterns are very similar. Pay attention to the distinct characteristics and typical adult sizes listed on this guide to avoid confusion when you encounter these animals.

Nonnative Lizards

Figure 1. Green iguana, 4 to 6 feet. Vibrant shades of green become dull with age. Males have larger spikes along back.
Figure 1.  Green iguana, 4 to 6 feet. Vibrant shades of green become dull with age. Males have larger spikes along back.

Figure 2. Black spinytail iIguana, 2 to 4 feet. Gray to tan body with well-defined black bands.
Figure 2.  Black spinytail iIguana, 2 to 4 feet. Gray to tan body with well-defined black bands.
Credit: William Flaxington

Figure 3. Black and white tegu, 2 to 3 feet. Dark bands with plentiful white dots between them.
Figure 3.  Black and white tegu, 2 to 3 feet. Dark bands with plentiful white dots between them.
Credit: David Barkasy

Figure 4. Brown anole, 5 to 9 inches. Yellowish-tan to dark brown; red dewlap with yellow border.
Figure 4.  Brown anole, 5 to 9 inches. Yellowish-tan to dark brown; red dewlap with yellow border.
Credit: Ianaré Sévi

Figure 5. Cuban knight anole, 13 to 19.5 inches. Changes from bright green to brown; yellow facial band.
Figure 5.  Cuban knight anole, 13 to 19.5 inches. Changes from bright green to brown; yellow facial band.
Credit: Bill Bayless

Figure 6. Northern curly-tailed lizard, 7 to 10.5 inches. Gray to tan with curled tail.
Figure 6.  Northern curly-tailed lizard, 7 to 10.5 inches. Gray to tan with curled tail.

Figure 7. Nile monitor, 4 to 6 feet. Brown/yellow body bands; forked, black/blue tongue; long, sharp claws.
Figure 7.  Nile monitor, 4 to 6 feet. Brown/yellow body bands; forked, black/blue tongue; long, sharp claws.
Credit: Bill Bayless

Native Look-Alikes

Figure 8. Green anole, 5 to 8 inches. Can change color to brown; pinkish dewlap (throat fan).
Figure 8.  Green anole, 5 to 8 inches. Can change color to brown; pinkish dewlap (throat fan).

Figure 9. Eastern fence lizard, 3.5 to 7.5 inches.
Figure 9.  Eastern fence lizard, 3.5 to 7.5 inches.
Credit: Steve Johnson

Figure 10. Florida scrub lizard, 3.5 to 5.5 inches.
Figure 10.  Florida scrub lizard, 3.5 to 5.5 inches.
Credit: Steve Johnson

Figure 11. American alligator, 6 to 9 feet. (Juveniles pictured.)
Figure 11.  American alligator, 6 to 9 feet. (Juveniles pictured.)

Nonnative Snakes Report sightings to www.IveGot1.org or 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (1-888-483-4681)

Figure 12. Burmese python, 10 to 12 feet. Tan body with dark blotches that do not touch; dark and light wedges beneath the eye.
Figure 12.  Burmese python, 10 to 12 feet. Tan body with dark blotches that do not touch; dark and light wedges beneath the eye.

Figure 13. African python, 10 to 12 feet. Tan to grey body with irregular dark spots; dark and light wedges beneath the eye.
Figure 13.  African python, 10 to 12 feet. Tan to grey body with irregular dark spots; dark and light wedges beneath the eye.

Figure 14. Reticulated python, 14 to 18 feet. Distinct reddish eyes; tan body with dark brown, net-like markings with yellow and white accents.
Figure 14.  Reticulated python, 14 to 18 feet. Distinct reddish eyes; tan body with dark brown, net-like markings with yellow and white accents.
Credit: Bjorn Lardener, Colorado State University

Figure 15. Ball python, 2 to 4 feet. Large brownish spots outlined in light cream color against a dark brown or black body.
Figure 15.  Ball python, 2 to 4 feet. Large brownish spots outlined in light cream color against a dark brown or black body.

Figure 16. Boa constrictor, 6 to 9 feet. Tan oval spots, reddish-brown tail.
Figure 16.  Boa constrictor, 6 to 9 feet. Tan oval spots, reddish-brown tail.

Figure 17. Green anaconda, 13 to 15 feet. Green body; large, round, dark spots; eye stripes.
Figure 17.  Green anaconda, 13 to 15 feet. Green body; large, round, dark spots; eye stripes.

Figure 18. Yellow anaconda, 6 to 9 feet. Yellow body; large, dark spots; five dark stripes on top of head.
Figure 18.  Yellow anaconda, 6 to 9 feet. Yellow body; large, dark spots; five dark stripes on top of head.
Credit: Lutz Dirksen, US Geological Survey

NATIVE Snakes Sometimes Confused with Invasives

Note that invasive snakes are much heavier-bodied than most natives and always have smooth, shiny scales. Cottonmouths and rattlesnakes have a more distinctively triangular head than the invasive snakes.

Figure 19. Eastern indigo snake, 5 to 6 feet. Endangered species.
Figure 19.  Eastern indigo snake, 5 to 6 feet. Endangered species.

Figure 20. Brown watersnake, 3.5 to 4.5 feet.
Figure 20.  Brown watersnake, 3.5 to 4.5 feet.

Figure 21. Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, 3 to 5 feet. Venomous.
Figure 21.  Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, 3 to 5 feet. Venomous.

Figure 22. Corn snake, 1.5 to 3.5 feet.
Figure 22.  Corn snake, 1.5 to 3.5 feet.

Figure 23. Cottonmouth, 2.5 to 3 feet. Venomous.
Figure 23.  Cottonmouth, 2.5 to 3 feet. Venomous.

Footnotes

1. This document is WEC291, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 2010. Revised August 2013 and January 2014. Reviewed June 2017. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
2. Laura M. Early, intern; Christy A. Harry, intern; Rebecca G. Harvey, environmental education coordinator; and Frank J. Mazzotti, professor; Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314.