Nonnatives - Giant Whiptail

Giant Whiptail - Cnemidophorus motaguae


Florida's Nonnative Wildlife. Species detail.

First year: 1995

Extirpated year:

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 1 county  At least 10 years

Statewide trend: Expanding

Giant Whiptail
Photograph by Kevin M. Enge © 2003

Threats to natives: None known, but it presumably will prey on smaller lizards. The urbanized area where it occurs probably does not support populations of our native teiid, the six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus).

Species Account: The giant whiptail is a large (males up to 33 cm) teiid lizard from northern South America. At least 1 thriving population was established in Miami by 1995 (Bartlett 1995), but its present status is unclear because of continuing construction (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). This population probably resulted from the deliberate release of animals, although no known reptile dealers are located nearby (Bartlett 1995). Another population was discovered on the edge of Everglades National Park near Chekika in 2004 (K. M. Enge, FFWCC, Quincy, personal observation). Habitat includes canal banks, nurseries, road sides, and office complexes. The back is golden brown and shades into tan or deeper brown on the sides. The body and base of the tail are liberally flecked with bright yellow spots, and the lower sides are black with white or turquoise flecks. The head and distal portion of the tail are russet colored. This alert, active lizard frequents open fields, canal banks, edges of grassy parking lots, and road shoulders (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Habitats: Barren land, Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns, Agricultural habitat, Recently disturbed, early successional community

County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes 
DADE 1995 At least 10 years Kendall (Bartlett 1995); population also present for at least 20 years in the Opa-locka (Meshaka et al. 2004) and on abandoned nursery land in the Chekika area (K. Enge, FFWCC, Quincy, personal observation)


Bartlett, R. D. 1995. The teiids of the southeastern U.S. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 43(7):112, 114-119, 121-122, 124-126.

Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Meshaka, W. E., Jr., B. P. Butterfield, and J. B. Hauge. 2004. The exotic amphibians and reptiles of Florida. Krieger, Melbourne, Florida. 166pp.

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