These ectothermic (cold-blooded) creatures are most abundant in warm, tropical environments due to their inability to regulate their own body temperatures. Some are aquatic and some are land dwellers, but they all have scales and reproduce by laying eggs. Lizards, turtles, snakes, and alligators are all considered reptiles. Visit the FREE Visitor & Education Center and check out the Crocodile Exhibit, which features the bones of a female crocodile that inhabited Sanibel Island from 1980-2010. See a comprehensive list of herpetological species that can be found on the Refuge.

  • Crocodilians


    Crocodilians- Large, aquatic, lizard-like reptiles that usually live in tropical environments. Alligators, crocodiles, caimens, and gharials are members of this reptilian group.  

    American Alligator(pictured) (Alligator mississippiensis) Alligators can be found basking in the sun or swimming through the water at many locations throughout the Refuge.

    American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) Only one crocodile is known to occur on the island, which was relocated to the Refuge from a residential area in Charlotte County in 2010. An easy way to tell an alligator from a crocodile is to look at its snout; a crocodile will have a much narrower and pointier snout than an alligator.

  • Turtles and Tortoises

    Gopher Tortoise

    Turtles and Tortoises- Known for carrying their homes on their backs. Turtles are generally aquatic while tortoises are found more commonly on land. Their shells are actually a modification of their spine.

    Gopher Tortoise (pictured) (Gopherus polyphemus) Official state tortoise of Florida. They are known for their extensive underground burrows, which provide homes for over 200 other species of wildlife.

    Ornate Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota) Considered "Near Threatened" in the state of Florida. They are unique in that they are the only turtle found exclusively in brackish water habitats, which is water that is a mixture of fresh and salt water.

    Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone Ferox) A species that is native to southeastern United States that is not threatened nor endangered. Their leathery carapace or shell is usually a dark brown or green. They have a very long neck and a snorkel-shaped nose that they will stick out of the water while they swim. 

  • Snakes

    Yellow Rat Snake

    Snakes- Crucial for controlling rodent populations. All of Sanibel's common snake species are nonvenomous and are unlikely to act aggressively unless threatened. 

    Yellow Rat Snake (pictured) (Coelognathus flavolineatus) Can be found in a variety of habitats, but are particularly known for their tree-climbing abilities. Slightly keeled belly scales promote their climbing abilities.

    Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) One of the most commonly seen snakes on the Refuge. They are non-venomous and are very shy of people. They are characterized by a solid black body and a white belly, which can be seen under its chin when it holds its head up.

    Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake (Nerodia clarkii compressicauda) This is a non-venomous snake that is also known as the mangrove water snake. They can be commonly seen basking in the sun on the mangrove tree roots here at the Refuge. They come in multiple different colors varying from gray, brown, or red, which allows them to camouflage into their environments.

  • Lizards

    Green Anole

    Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) Have color-changing abilities similar to a chameleon's, and they are able to change from green to brown in order to blend in with their surroundings. They are also easy to confuse with the Cuban Brown anole, which is a nonnative species. 

    Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus) Slightly larger than the anoles, these skinks have bright blue tails when they are young and bright red heads as adults.