This post will be discussing some of the other reptiles that you may find in the North Georgia Mountains. Most of these animals are not dangerous, but they can bite and scratch.
Tortoises and Turtles
The Gopher Tortoise
There are a variety of turtles in Georgia, but there is only one common tortoise. The Gopher Tortoise is the only tortoise in the Southeast and can easily be distinguished from the box turtle (our only other fully terrestrial turtle) by its large size, rigid, unhinged plastron (bottom of shell) and its stumpy, unwebbed feet. Adult Gopher Tortoises are large 9-15 in (24 – 38 cm) and are tan or brown above with a yellowish plastron. The juveniles can be yellowish and brightly patterned. Tortoises cannot swim and therefore should be left on land.
The common snapping turtle is a large freshwater turtle and is noted for its combative disposition when out of the water with its powerful beak-like jaws, and highly mobile head and neck. In shallow waters, common snapping turtles may lie beneath a muddy bottom with only their heads exposed, stretching their long necks to the surface for an occasional breath (their nostrils are positioned on the very tip of the snout, effectively functioning as snorkels). Snapping turtles consume both plant and animal matter, and are important aquatic scavengers, but they are also active hunters that prey on anything they can swallow, including many invertebrates, fish, frogs, reptiles (including snakes and smaller turtles), unwary birds, and small mammals.
Alligator snapping turtles is one of the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world. The alligator snapping turtle is given its common name because of its immensely powerful jaws and long, spring-like neck, as well as distinct ridges on its shell that are similar in appearance to the rough, ridged skin of an alligator. They can be immediately distinguished from the common snapping turtle by the three distinct rows of spikes and raised plates on the carapace, whereas the common snapping turtle has a smoother carapace. Alligator snappers are opportunistic feeders that are almost entirely carnivorous. They rely on both live food caught by themselves and dead organisms which they scavenge. In general, they will eat almost anything they can catch.
The other turtle species are divided into the groups: Basking Turtles, Mud and Musk Turtles, and Softshell Turtles. These turtles are relatively harmless as long as you don’t aggravate them into biting you. You can typically see them swimming or traveling between creeks and ponds in the woods. If you find one crossing a road and wish to help, be sure to wash your hands afterwards. The box turtle is one of the most common turtles you will see in the area.
You may see lizards as they bask in the sun or come out to eat some insects. They are skittish and will escape to the best of their ability.
Skinks are some of the more common lizards that you will see. Skinks are moderately large lizards with short legs and a streamlined body. The body is generally gray, brown, or black, in background color with five white or yellowish stripes (two on each side and one down the center of the back). Young have a bright blue tail while adult males often loose their stripes and develop reddish or orange coloration on the head.
Although the six-lined racerunner is the only lizard in our area with six light yellow or white stripes down its back, the racerunner’s ground-dwelling habits and impressive speed are often sufficient to identify this species from a distance.
Legless and Alligator Lizards
The glass lizards or glass snakes are a genus, Ophisaurus (from the Greek ‘snake-lizard’), of reptiles that resemble snakes, but are actually lizards. Although most species have no legs, their head shapes, movable eyelids, and external ear openings identify them as lizards.