Austin’s (Mostly Friendly) Backyard Reptiles

Spend enough time outdoors in Austin, and you’re bound to spot a reptile.

Mediterranean Geckos, Green Anoles, Texas Spiny Lizards and Texas Rat Snakes are all common throughout Austin, according to Tim Cole, owner of Austin Reptile Service, which provides educational services and home consultations.

Austin’s most populous species are pretty easy to identify, if you know what you’re looking for.

The most common lizards are the Mediterranean Gecko, a light grey species typically found at night eyeing insects wherever they congregate, and the Green Anole, a bright green lizard that can change colors and is usually spotted during the day hunting insects on bushes.

Cole said that in more wooded areas people sometimes spot Texas Spiny Lizards, an 8- to 10-inch insect-eater that usually crawls around on trees.

Texas Rat Snakes are easily the most common snake in Austin, Cole said.

“There’s not a neighborhood that doesn’t have them,” he said.

Adults grow from 4- to 6-feet long. But don’t worry. They’re harmless to humans.

The rat snake goes anywhere rodents go. So, if you’re property has a rodent problem, it’s likely going to attract the rat snake.

But Cole implores people not to kill or remove rat snakes. They keep the rodent population down.

“And people often forget that our nonvenomous snakes are feeding on the same things our venomous snakes eat,” he said.

The rat snake will bite a human who tries to pick it up, Cole said. But the bite isn’t much more serious than a bad papercut, he said.

Rat snakes can climb almost anything, and they’ve been known to get into attics that have a significant rodent problem — though attics are usually too hot during the summer months.

Aside from the rat snake, Austin is home to several species. The most commonly spotted are garter snakes, Patch-nosed snakes and Coachwhips. All are nonvenomous.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are rarely found inside the city. But they are relatively common in rural areas outside of Austin. They prefer rocky hillsides, and they usually try to avoid areas with a lot of human activity.

Homeowners can narrow the chances that any type of snake hangs out on their property by removing clutter, such as piles of brush and stacks of rocks, Cole said.

Austin is also home to two non-venomous water snakes: the Diamondback Water Snake and the Blotched Water Snake. Both inhabit ponds and streams. They feed on fish and frogs.

There are dozens of other species of reptiles in Central Texas. If you need help identifying one, consider checking one of these pages: Austin Area Reptiles or Herps of Texas.