Lazarus Lizards in Cincinnati

You’ve seen them at Ault Park. At least, you thought you saw them. They’re the ubiquitous little critters running stealthily up and down the stone walls there and other locations around the Hyde Park and Cincinnati area. What are they?

They’re Lazarus Lizards! It’s strange to see these reptilian little guys that we’re most accustomed to seeing in Florida or other warm climates. So what’s the story? I spoke with Scott Wingate, Executive Director of the WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium to find out.

Why “Lazarus” Lizards?

First, the name. Why are they called Lazarus Lizards? Legend has it that a young member of the Lazarus family (of the former department store), was vacationing in Milan, Italy, and became enamored with the little creatures, whose proper name is the “European Wall Lizard.”

The young man gave them a free ride back to Cincinnati in his pocket, where they have thrived, and “naturalized” due to the similarity in Milan and Cincinnati climates. Cincinnati also provides the habitat conditions preferable to the now millions of lizards, with plentiful stone walls.

Known to Cincinnatians as “Lazarus Lizards”, the European Wall Lizard has a variety of colorful patterns.

More Facts about Lazarus Lizards

Their diet is comprised of insects, and this fuels them to live to about 5 years old. They have amazing color patterns. You may also notice some have shorter tails than others. They may lose their tail if they are threatened but this is an adaptation that helps them to survive. Amazingly, it will grow back!

And, if you were worried about them in the frigid Ohio temperatures, don’t! Scott reminded me they’re adapted to cold weather climates and will hibernate in leaf litter until the next sunny day, especially on southern exposures.

We all enjoy the energy and interest they add to our area. On your next visit to the park, keep an eye out for these like-able little lizards!