National Park Service
Reptiles fulfill vital roles in the natural world. They are an important part of the food chain. Predatory reptiles eat various species of rodents and insects at Great Falls, which helps to keep prey populations in balance. Some reptile species are eaten by some mammals and birds of prey.
Great Falls Park is home to one species of venomous snake: the copperhead. Visit this page to learn more about copperheads and other snakes in the park.
Turtles, like the Eastern Box seen in the photo above, are found in wooded areas and near Clay Pond. Snapping turtles and painted turtles can be observed in the pond and along the Potomac River.
Lizards hunt for insects in wooded areas and in the rocky environment along the clifftops. Five lined skinks are very easy to spot, due to their bright yellow and turquoise stripes. Avoid handling skinks. When threatened, these lizards can drop their own tail from their body. Predators will go after the twitching tail while the lizard escapes. Eventually, the tail will regrow. Until it does, the lizard has to go without one of its main methods of defense.
All reptile species are protected within park boundaries. Observe all animals from a distance and do not attempt to handle them or remove them from the park. Most bites occur when someone attempts to pick up or touch a reptile, causing it to feel the need to defend itself. Harming or killing any reptile within park boundaries is illegal.
Did You Know?
Even though it may be a hot day, remember that swimming is not allowed in Great Falls Park. The Potomac River is fast, with dangerous currents, and is never safe for swimming.