When you think of lizards (Everyone does, right?), you probably think of the desert, or at least a more tropical, warmer location than Connecticut.  Most lizards do prefer warmer climates.  Lizards are reptiles and are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature is determined by their surroundings and is not internally regulated.  Maybe not everyone knows that we do have a lizard native to Connecticut and it’s a very beautiful lizard too! 

The lizard that calls Connecticut home (well, it doesn’t, we do) is the five-lined skink (Eumeces fasciatus).  Skinks are smooth and shiny and very alert and active.  They are hard to catch and their tails break off easily (it will grow back).  Some skinks will try to bite if caught.  The range of the five-lined skink extends south from the lower peninsula of Michigan, southern Ontario, and eastern New York to northern Florida, and west to Wisconsin, part of Michigan’s upper penninsula, Missouri, and eastern regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (Harding 1997).  Connecticut is on the northern edge of the range, so the skink is less abundant in interior areas than in the more southern parts of the state.  During the 1990s, it was thought that the five-lined skink was extinct in central Connecticut because it hadn’t been spotted for a long time, even when surveys were conducted.  Then in the late 90s, we saw a juvenile, like the one pictured below, inside our neighbor’s house.  The juveniles are brilliantly colored, with five white or yellowish stripes on a black background on their bodies and their tails are bright blue.  As they mature, these colors fade, until the adults have only faintly visible stripes and are mostly brown or olive in color.  Males have a bright orange jaw.  Adults are 5 – 8.5” long and new hatchlings are 2 – 2.5” long.  

fivelinedskinkjuvenile.herpcenter.ipfwedu

Juvenile (www.herpcenter.ipfw.edu)

04050532PD_5-lined_skink.wildherpscom

Adult male (www.wildherps.com)

 

Where should you look for this elusive lizard?  The preferred habitat is a moist but not wet, wooded or partly wooded area that gets at least some sun for basking.  The five-lined skink is often found on disturbed sites such as the edges of woods, brush piles, logs, rocky areas, etc.   They seek cover in various sheltered areas including buildings and are inactive during the winter.  The little fellow we found led us to do a search outside for it’s family.  We do live on the edge of a rocky wooded area, and sure enough, we found more juveniles sunning on fallen trees and an adult female as well.  This was an exciting confirmation that the five-lined skink was still alive and well in central Connecticut (Hartford County).   I have been disappointed though, that we have not seen any more five-lined skinks for a few years now.  If you have seen them, please post a comment to let me know! 

Five-lined skinks lay fertilized eggs in early summer, at least a month after mating.  Fifteen to eighteen eggs are laid in a cavity in a sheltered area such as under a rotting log or in an abandoned rodent burrow.  The eggs incubate for 24-55 days depending on temperature.  The females protect the eggs and also the new hatchlings for a day or two.  The life span of five-lined skinks is up to six years. 

5 lined skinks with eggs.LakeheadU.ca

Females with eggs (S. Hecnar, Lakehead Univ., Ontario)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The diet of five-lined skinks consists primarily of insects and other arthropods.  At times, they may also eat baby mice, tiny frogs, and snails.  Wouldn’t it be great if they would help out with those slugs in your garden? 

The information for this blog is in part from two references: 

Conant, R. and J. T. Collins.  1991. Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America.  Peterson Field Guides.  Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY.

Vanwormer, E.  2002. “Eumeces fasciatus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 3, 2009 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eumeces_fasciatus.html.

 J. A.