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What Is a State Reptile?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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A state reptile is a species of lizard, snake, alligator, terrapin, tortoise or turtle officially adopted by one of the American states. The reptile is found in the state, although not necessarily in abundance or throughout it. Only about half of American states have a reptile state symbol, although most have an official motto, nickname, flower and insect. All 50 states have adopted a state bird and tree. For a reptile to be considered by a state, it must first be proposed in a bill before it can be approved by the legislature and officially adopted.

Minnesota's unofficial state reptile is the Blanding's turtle, which is considered an endangered species. Minnesota makes conservation and protection efforts to help keep the species from being eliminated. Although the Blanding's turtle was proposed in 1998 as the state's reptile, it wasn't officially adopted.

States that have officially chosen turtles include Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Like Louisiana, the American alligator is Florida's official state reptile; the loggerhead sea turtle, which is also South Carolina's choice, is its saltwater selection. North Carolina and Tennessee share the Eastern box turtle as their states' official reptile. Colorado and Michigan share the painted turtle. Alabama's state turtle is the red-bellied variety, while Kansas claims the ornate box turtle and New York has the snapping turtle.

The tortoise is a species of turtle that tends to prefer drier habitats. Whereas many turtles like to live in damp areas, yet are versatile, most US tortoises prefer dry, hot, sandy terrain. The desert tortoise, which is the state reptile of California and Nevada, is one of these tortoises. Another is Georgia's official reptile, the gopher tortoise, that prefers a sunny climate and dry, sandy soil.

The terrapin is another turtle species that typically prefers a different environment. Maryland's state reptile is the diamondback terrapin. This type of turtle spends most of its life in coastal swamp waters.

Snakes are the state reptiles for four states. Two species of rattlesnake, the ridge-nosed for Arizona and the timber for West Virginia, are state reptiles. Ohio has officially adopted the black racer snake as its reptile, while Massachusetts' state reptile is the garter snake.

Both Texas and Wyoming have the horned toad, which is actually a lizard, as their state reptile. The "horned" part of the name refers to the spines on the reptile's back. The "toad" refers to the round mid-section of this lizard that is a member of the iguana family. New Mexico's state reptile is the whiptail lizard, while the Eastern collared lizard is Oklahoma's official choice.

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