slow worm (Anguis fragilis), is a legless lizard that can grow
up to 450mm (18”) in length, common in Wycombe District and found in the gardens of
a number of our members and grounds of schools in the District. Males are a coppery-brown
colour, while females are darker and often have a dark stripe down the back.
Slow-worms are viviparous, i.e. the eggs develop within the female’s
body and the young are born alive. Although scaly they are smooth
to the touch. If
you pick one up do so by gently grasping the front end of the body
for, like most lizards, they can shed their tail. This is a defence
leaves a predator occupied with a wriggling tail while they slide
away into the undergrowth..
In urban areas cats are the most serious predators of slow-worms,
but they can also fall prey to hedgehogs, rats & kestrels.
Like all reptiles they have to bask in the sun the raise their
sheets of corrugated iron in a sunny spot will attract slow-worms;
as they can bask beneath these protected from predators.
If you want to know if you have slow-worms in your garden or (WWG
Schools members) on your school field, just lay out a few pieces
of board (300mm
or larger) in warm, sunny spots on the edge of a flowerbed or in the uncut margins
of the school field where the slow-worms can hunt for food and move around safely
and look under them occasionally, on warm, sunny days. If you do find slow-worms
using these “basking sheets”, leave them in place,
as they will be of great benefit to them.
Slow-worms also burrow into compost heaps – the heat generated
by the rotting compost providing them with a lovely, warm, safe
if the compost heap is not boxed down to the ground !
An outdoor vivarium is basically a rockery, in a sunny position,
constructed so there are plenty of tunnels and crevices between
and under the rocks
where the reptiles can hide, plus a suitable basking area, which
is boxed in so
the animals can not escape. An essential addition to this is a
shallow dish of
water as slow-worms do drink. The one advantage of a vivarium is
that it can be covered
with a net to protect the occupants from cats etc. The main disadvantage
is that the supply of natural food will be limited. So gardeners,
you will have
out at night with a torch to collect slugs and drop them into the
vivarium for your slow-worms. The long summer holiday brings about
with “captive” animals – far
better to enhance the appropriate areas of the school grounds to
favour the slow-worms so they can be observed in their natural
||Young slow-worms are between 65mm (2½") to 100mm
(4") long and are a burnished gold colour.