One of the most often asked questions I get.
Considering their size, in comparison to other small animals like rodents, reptiles and amphibians can live to a good old age.
The smallest of our Northern reptiles the common lizard averages between 5 to 6 years in the wild. They become sexually mature after about 2 to 3 years.
The secretive slow worm is a different creature all together. Having a more sedentary life and generally spending most of it under cover they are thought to live well into their 30’s and beyond. One specimen kept in captivity lived for over 50 years. (this record is held by a male slow worm that lived at the Copenhagen Zoo from 1962 to 2009)
Grass snakes live a decent age by being fast and shy and keeping out of harms way. They are alert and wary of movement. Males can become sexually mature at about 3 years of age the females 4 to 5 years. Males average about 10 years and females will live into their teens.
Adders have the advantage of being venomous which can protect them from predators. However this is also a disadvantage as it makes them a target for persecution from people. Like the grass snake they live between 10 to 15 years. There are reptile surveyors who have recorded seeing the same snake for up to 20 years or more.
Please bear in mind that these figures are dependant on many factors such as stress levels, availability of food, growth patterns, temperature and habitat. All reptiles are very good at not being seen in the wild and spending hours not moving. They are also able to last for long periods between meals. These factors help to extend their life span in contrast to small mammals which are generally continually active with high metabolisms and the need to feed regularly.
I hope this helps answer some important questions about our native reptiles. I’m sure more questions will come in for me to answer as time goes on.
John R Grundy
Revealing Reptiles Project Officer