Saturday, June 30, 2007

Five-lined Skink

by Donna L. Watkins

The Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) is one of the most common lizards in the Eastern United States, so we saw them when we lived in Alabama and enjoy seeing them here in Central Virginia.

© Donna L. Watkins - Female Adult Five-Lined Skink
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You can see how they got their name with this photo that shows the light-colored lines. They also have a bright blue tail which is what usually attracts our attention as they dart about our deck and grounds. Their size is from 5 to 8 inches long.

Our cat, Squeek, enjoys seeing them squeeze under the screen door on the screened porch. She sits there on the rug watching and now and then one will tease her. They are poisonous to household pets and having been a feral kitty, Squeek knows better than to think of it as a snack.

Although these skinks are smooth like a salamander, they are lizards. Lizards are reptiles which have claws and ear openings, while salamanders are amphibians which lack both claws and ear openings.

The females retain the striped and blue tailed pattern for life, but the adult male's coloring becomes brown or olive.  During mating season in Spring, the head and jaws of the male turn orange-red which helps them to attract a female.

Photo by Donna L. Watkins - Adult Male Five-Lined Skink
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Their nest is created in rotting logs, loose soil, or leaf litter where 4-15 eggs are laid. We had one nest under a garden statue of a Mallard Duck.

The female skink guards the nest until the young are born. After only 1-2 days the newborn skinks are left to their own instincts.

To attract skinks or other reptiles to your garden, provide lots of shelter in the form of dense vegetation, brush and rock piles, and fallen logs. Let leaf litter accumulate and place a rock or log where it receives morning sun as an invitation for basking reptiles.

They will reward your efforts by consuming roaches, grasshoppers, beetle larvae, spiders, crickets, flies, grubs, crustaceans, worms and even small mice, a diet more varied than that of some other skinks.

They are extremely important to humans as natural pest controls and play an important role in the survival of many larger lizards, birds, mammals, and snakes as they are a food source for these predatory animals.

One of their defense mechanisms is a tail that easily breaks. If confronted or grasped, the skink's tail breaks away and continues to wiggle wildly keeping the attention of the attacker on the tail, while allowing the skink to escape. The tail does grow back, but not to the original length, and it is left more defenseless until then, so viewing them from a distance is best since skinks shouldn't be handled.

Although considered terrestrial (ground dwelling), the Five-lined Skink will climb a decayed snag in its forest home where it knows insects can be found. Although secretive and wary of anything that moves, skinks occasionally bask on rocks or logs in the sun, but take shelter under logs, rocks and leaf litter in the heat of the afternoon.

Its most comfortable temperature range is 78-85 degrees and it is most active during the day. In areas where Winter brings cold, they hibernate in rotting logs, under large rocks, or underground.

10 comments:

corey said...

i have a skink and i think that it need to be at a temp of 90 because my cage is at 85 but my skink never come out and i know he/she is alive because he/she is always eating the crickets i give he/she

Donna Watkins said...

I don't know anything about keeping wildlife as pets, so I don't know their temperature requirements.

Anonymous said...

do they eat sandwitch meat dipped in raw egg

Donna Watkins said...

I don't think they'd get sandwich meat in the wild nor have I seen one dip it in egg if he did find a piece discarded :-) I do not favor having wild animals as pets unless they are injured and cannot survive in the wild. To me life would not be life at all if I had to live in a cage.

Me said...

Ahh! It's winter my baby five lined skink will not eat; he is not hibernating he is up and about I gave him crickets but he hasn't ate in three days; he is in a tank filled with newspaper and warm mats as I found him outside sleeping under the warm mat. He plays all day and drinks his water but when it comes to food he doesn't do it. I don't know what to do he should be hibernating shouldn't he?

Donna Watkins said...

I don't know where you are ME, but they do hibernate in colder climates. This info is from a site about Connecticut:

Their prefered habitat is usually areas adjacent to moist deciduous forests that can be steep and rocky but contain some shrub cover, old logs and leaf litter. These skinks are active during day through the warm season. In this area they will hibernate from about October to mid-March. For winter they may dig a burrow below the frost line or hibernate in a crevice, under a log or in a tunnel made by another animal. Sometimes a small number will share a hibernation spot.

He won't hibernate if you have him in a warm place.

Anonymous said...

I have taken care of over 20,000 wild birds and wild animals. There is a nice southeastern skink who somehow finds his way into my office, where he likes to sit upon the warm computer router. I think he thinks he is invisible when sitting there, because he never moves when we walk by him. He's lovely. I have fed him all sorts of foods and fruits. He loves everything, except he runs away after he eats peaches. I'm in Tallahassee. He's been coming into my house for over two years.

Donna Watkins said...

What a sweet story. I love it!

Eagle Ace said...

Are you sure that that picture if of an adult male five-line? I mean, not to be rude, but I'm pretty sure those expanded jaws and triangular head are those of a broad-headed skink. Broad-headed skinks even have faded blue tails and five lines as juveniles. But, hey, this is from what I read, so what should I know right?

Donna Watkins said...

Thank you, Eagle Ace for asking me that question. The photo shown is a Broad-headed Skink and titled so on my photo gallery. I guess I grabbed a photo I thought was here in Virginia and never looked back. I appreciate you taking the time to email me about it. I have swapped it out: http://www.thenatureinus.com/2007/06/five-lined-skink.html

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