We get a call or two every year about an anole found here in northeastern New York. Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) are native to the Southeast and brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) are native to Cuba and the Bahamas, although they have invaded the same range as green anoles and are now widely found there. The same trait that brought brown anoles to the United States brings many into the cold north – they are notorious hitchhikers.
Anoles are small, fast, and live in plants, especially if those plants have bugs. Anoles eat small insects like flies, spiders, crickets, and moths, all found on plants. They often find their way into greenhouses where potted plants are grown for retail sales all over the country and end up being shipped out along with the plants. Even the littlest reptiles can survive some exposure to cold by going into a torpor state, and an anole might seem dead until they warm up and surprise an unsuspecting plant purchaser.
Being only five to seven inches long, tiny anoles are not suitable for handling, especially by children, but they are fairly easy to care for and can be a good introductory reptile pet. Anoles can thrive in a small glass tank with a good substrate and lots of plants to climb on, either live or artificial. The biggest challenge is maintaining a sufficient humidity level, which can be achieved with a spray bottle if used daily.
Our current anole rescue, Scatha, was a very young hatchling when she was found, so we suspect she may have journeyed north as an egg laid in potting soil. If you find an anole in the North Country, please do not release it outside, even in summer, as it will not survive long here. Contact us for rescue help, or for advice on setting up a good habitat for your new anole pet.