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Male and Female Slow-worm photographed in my greenhouse at Bepton

Anguis fragilis

Having now seen one of these on Bepton Down I thought I should just give the reader a synopsis of this endearing species of reptile.

They are totally protected by law.

Slow-worms are lizards, though they are often mistaken for snakes. Unlike snakes they have eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop their tail to escape from a predator.  The tail will grow back but there will be a tell tale kink to denote where the tail was shed from.

They are welcome in any garden as they will eat slugs.

They are ovoviviparous which means that the female will incubate the eggs internally and will give birth to a maximum of eight young in late August, early September.  They are fully mature at the end of 6 – 8 years.  The male will reach sexual maturity at age 3 to 4.  The female reaches sexual maturity between the ages of 4 to 5.

Slow-worms have a shiny appearance. Males are a greyish brown and females are brown with dark sides. Some females possess a thin line down the back. Juvenile slow-worms are very thin and are initially around 4cm long. Juveniles have black bellies and gold or silver dorsal sides, sometimes with a stripe running along the length of the body.

I have known Bepton Down for over 40 years and have never seen one on the SSSI before the 16th March, 2018.  So this is yet another reason why the SSSI should be enhanced and maintained for the species it supports.