This Eastern Glass Lizard was hanging out near near the surf on the beach in Duck, NC. I watched for a while and quickly realized it wasn’t a water snake. When it tried to get away from me, it had trouble navigating the waves and wasn’t doing much better traversing the wet sand. Knowing people aren’t very kind to snakes, I felt bad leaving it in the open.
As a general rule you shouldn’t interfere with wildlife, so I thought long and hard before deciding I should move it to the dunes. Venomous snakes normally have a broad head and a slit-shaped pupil. This one had a round pupil and an very narrow head, so I felt pretty confident it wasn’t anything venomous. Still, even non-venomous snakes can bite if they feel threatened. With that in mind, it took me a few minutes to work up the courage to pick it up. Eventually I quickly, but gently, grabbed it by the tail and walked it to the dunes. As soon as released, it easily navigated through the grasses on the dune. It was probably a good call to relocate it.
When I tried to identify the snake later, I couldn’t find any images or descriptions of snakes that seemed to match. I emailed an image and description to the Virginia Herpetological Society and they identified it as an Eastern Glass Lizard, a species of legless lizard in the South Eastern US.
If you’re wondering what makes this a legless lizard rather than a snake, there are several anatomical differences. Lizards have moveable eye lids, and ear openings, both of which are not present on snakes. Additionally snakes can unhinge their jaws but lizards cannot.