Green Anoles in Pennsylvania?!

A few days ago, I received an intriguing comment on my lizardsandfriends.org blog:

Hello Michele;

My name is Steve and I found a family of Green Anoles living in my shed this past summer.  The interesting thing about this is that I live in Pennsylvania.  As far as I understand, they should not be this far north.

At first I only saw the one and would see him every now and again on hot days.  Then I saw two at once and then later I saw three at once.  So I assume I have a family taking shelter in my shed.

My daughter had a couple of anoles as pets back in 2002.  One escaped and the other eventually died.  I can’t help but wonder if the one that escaped was pregnant and happened to find my shed and the smorgasbord of insects that also take up residence there and started a family.

Thing is that there have been many winters between then and now and it is often in the single digits here during the winter.  We just went through over a week where the temps didn’t get out of the single digits much.  Do you think these little guys will be OK?  I mean I assume they have been dealing with these conditions for many years but I don’t really know.  The three I saw together were of different sizes which makes me think they’ve been there long enough to raise a family.

I am reluctant to change anything regarding how I keep the shed as I assume it has been agreeable enough in previous winters but can’t help wondering how they are doing…

I was, of course, skeptical that there could really be green anoles living outdoors in Pennsylvania – it’s just too cold in the winter.  I wrote back:

Hi Steve,

This is indeed unexpected! I assume you know exactly what green anoles look like, having had them as pets. The scenario you suggest is possible, that the escaped lizard was gravid and managed to reproduce and they survived, but is not “supposed” to happen with the kind of weather you experience in PA. Also, anoles don’t usually hang out together, as they defend territories from one another (and have no parental care), so it’s also a little curious that you saw them in a group. In any case, I wouldn’t suggest changing anything about the shed, but I agree it seems unlikely that these guys (if they are anoles) would make it through the winter. Feel free to send me a photo to confirm what they are, if you’d like.

And Steve replied, with photos that make it clear that yes, there are indeed green anoles living in his shed!

I am pretty sure these are green anoles.  They at least look exactly like the ones my daughter kept.  Also when I saw the first one, he was initially green and then turned brown as I moved closer to check him out.  Below is an image of that guy when I first saw him.

 anole

I never saw the anoles hanging out together in a group.  They were just out in the shed at the same time.  They do all seem to have their favorite areas.  One hung out above a window with a southern exposure where there was a large spider in a web below (the spider and the web eventually disappeared).  I would often see this one basking in that window.  The smaller one hung out around the side door of the shed and would often be poking out from around the side door jam.  The third one I saw on the chicken wire.  I did see one on the vent screen once but I’m not sure which one that was.  They all seemed to like the chicken wire though.  I also grow Mission Figs here and I use the chicken wire and plastic sheeting, tar paper and burlap to wrap the figs for winter.  All this stuff is piled up on the side of the shed where I always saw the anoles.

 I have been affectionately calling them Shed Lizards since they can’t be your standard variety anole this far north and I have never seen them outside the shed …

One at the roof vent:

roofvent

One on the rake:

rake

I only ever saw all three at the same time once, shortly before I stopped seeing them just before winter.  I don’t go into the shed much thru winter.  The picture with all three is below.  I circled where the anoles are:

threeanoles

I have only ever seen them on the eastern side of the shed where I pile up the chicken wire and material I use to wrap the figs.  Of course with this being winter, all that stuff is currently on the fig trees and no longer in the shed.  I have no idea where they go to brave the cold temperatures.  Would you expect they winter huddled together or would they each have their own spot to hibernate or whatever they do?

 I do hope to see them again in spring.  If what I think happened to explain them being there is correct, I expect I will.

I never saw them until this year but they must have been there for a while.  I really don’t spend time in the shed.  I go in, get what I need and leave.  So they may have been there since the one escaped in 2002; who knows.  I may even have more.  I wouldn’t have noticed them this year except I heard one drop (I believe I startled it).  I was certainly surprised when I saw a lizard.

I mainly wanted to confirm these are anoles and know if I should be doing anything special regarding their care through the winter.  I like that they are there and want to do what I can to make sure they’re OK.

Thanks again for your interest.  I do appreciate it.

Steve lives in South Central Pennsylvania, in York County.  If you have questions for him, I’ll pass them along!

3 thoughts on “Green Anoles in Pennsylvania?!

  1. Very cool read, I live just northwest of Philly and it saddens me that there aren’t many lizard species native to here!

    1. In Michigan, I had a green anole in my greenhouse… it came in on a nursery plant! It did quite well until I got a Scleoporus lizard in the greenhouse, and the anole SWIFTLY disappeared.

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