Department of Planning and Natural Resources
Division of Fish and Wildlife
U.S.V.I. Animal Fact Sheet #10
St. Croix Ground Lizard
+ Dorsal stripes are present
+ Ringed tail
+ Tail and belly color is bluish.
The St. Croix Ground Lizard (Ameiva
polops) is a small species of Ameiva. It has
parallel longitudinal black, white, and light-
brown stripes along the body. The belly is light
gray with lateral blue margins. The undersides
of the legs, throat, and chest are pinkish. The tail
has alternating rings of blue and black. The top
of the head is a uniform brown color. The lizard
is most readily identified by the blue color to the
tail and when disturbed it does not climb, unlike
similar looking anoles. The ground lizard when
disturbed will seek shelter in burrows, under
leaf litter, brush, rocks or wood.
The St. Croix Ground lizard is one of the
most endangered species in the Virgin Islands.
It was thought to be extinct on St. Croix during
the early 20th century, but in the late 1960's a
remnant population was observed on the beach
north of Frederiksted. The Department of the
Interior included the St. Croix ground lizard on
their list of rare and endangered species in 1968.
On June 3, 1977, the St. Croix ground lizard
was designated as endangered throughout its
Historically the lizard has been recorded
only on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and its
offshore islands and cays. Currently only Green
Cay and Protestant Cay off the north coast and
the manmade Ruth Cay off the south shore of
St. Croix are sites where this lizard is found.
Both Green and Protestant Cays have been
designated as Critical Habitat for the St. Croix
Ground Lizard, Ruth Cay is proposed to be
listed as critical habitat. Today the population
probably does not exceed 400 individuals on
Green Cay, 30 on Protestant Cay, and 35+ on
Ruth Cay. This places the survival of this
species of lizard in a very precarious position.
There are 19 species of Ameiva, in tropical
America and the Caribbean. The closest
species to the St. Croix ground lizard is the
Ameiva exsul found on the Puerto Rico bank.
However it is more closely related to Ameiva
taeniura which is found on Hispaniola.
Very little is known of the life history and
behavior of the ground lizard. What we do
know is that it is a heliothermic temperature
regulator. This means that they are active
during the middle portion of the day. On cooler
and cloudy days the ground lizard tends to stay
within its burrow. This lizard prefers partly
exposed and open canopied areas with leaf or
tidal litter, loose substrate, and crab burrows.
They actively prowl, root and dig for prey.
They are opportunistic hunters and will take
virtually any prey items they can find. They are
known to eat a variety of amphipods, moths,
ants, small hermit crabs, and the hatchlings and
eggs of anoles.
There is strong evidence that correlates the
decline of A. polops with the introduction of the
small Indian mongoose (Herpestes
auropunctatus) to the Virgin Islands. The
mongoose was introduced in 1884, at which
time the decline of the ground lizard probably
increased. The extensive development of
coastal areas in St. Croix may have also
contributed to the decline of this species. An
extensive mongoose eradication program has
taken place on Buck Island National Park. In
1968 it was believed that mongoose were
eradicated and 16 Ameiva were introduced to
the island. Two years later, 24 Ameiva were
counted and they had expanded their range
inshore and along the beach front from where
they were released. This suggested that the
introduction, or reintroduction, of Ameiva to
Buck Island was successful. Unfortunately, the
mongoose were not eradicated and when the
trapping program stopped the population once
again boomed. The ground lizard had again
been extirpated from Buck Island by 1974. Part
of the current recovery plan for the Ground
lizard requires the National Park service to
eradicate mongoose from Buck Island to allow
the reintroduction of the lizard. Recently, DFW
has coordinated a, first time ever, cooperative
agreement between USFWS and a private Hotel
(Hotel on the Cay) for the conservation and
management of an endangered species.
Currently students from several middle and high
schools are helping restore and maintain the
lizard's critical habitat on Protestant Cay.
What you can do to HELP
1. Please call the Division of Fish and Wildlife,
340-775-6762 St. Thomas/ St. John and
340-772-1955 St. Croix, if you see any St.
Croix Ground Lizards.
2. The Saint Croix Ground Lizard is very
valuable to us. They eat invertebrates and
other insects that we consider pests. Several
Ameiva have been observed hunting and
3. The only public location you can view the
St. Croix Ground Lizard is Protestant Cay in
the Christiansted Harbor. With help from
local schools we hope to restore and
maintain this lizard's critical habitat.
4. Please, if possible let them take care of
themselves. They have been doing theirjob
for millions of years and are a great benefit
5. If we take care of this lizard, we may be able
to attract more visitors to St. Croix. They
could be a tourist attraction!
6. Remember it is illegal to, or attempt to; take,
catch, possess, injure, harass, or kill any
indigenous species. The only exceptions are
for people holding valid permits from the
Division of Fish and Wildlife.
7. For more information on this and other
animals in the Virgin Islands please visit out
Written by William Coles, Doug McNair 2003.
THIS PUBLICATION WAS PRODUCED WITH
FUNDS FROM THE WILDLIFE
CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON
OUR NATIVE ANIMALS CONTACT
DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
6291 ESTATE NAZARETH, 101,
ST. THMAS, VI 00802
PHONE 340-775-6762 FAX 340-775-3972
45 MARS HILL, ST. CROIX, VI 00840
PHONE 340-772-1955 FAX 340-772-3227