Thursday, August 18, 2011

Skink Adventures

I thought that it was time to put the scaly back in Scaly Distractions, to do some serious herpetological blogging rather than making lame comments on lame elements of popular culture. I don't often blog about incidents from my daily life, because my daily life consists almost entirely of working and sleeping. But earlier in the month I took some time off from work, and had several skink-related adventures. (In case you didn't know, skinks are lizards of the family Scincidae).

(In the spirit of skinks, I began the post with a photograph from 2003 of an adult male Five-lined Skink in breeding coloration. See the full-sized original here.)

On Friday, August 5, I went to Leesylvania State Park, in search of the Eastern Fence Lizard. I saw sixteen Five-lined Skinks . . . and one baby Eastern Fence Lizard.

On Monday, August 8, I explored some locations in Loudoun County, where I encountered more skinks. I will have to analyze my photographs to be sure, but I think that one was a Broad-headed Skink, which would be the first member of that species that I've ever seen, and also the first verified record of that species in Loudoun County. (As to why I went to Loudoun in the first place, that is a skink of a different color. Perhaps I will tell the story one day.)

On Tuesday, August 9, I didn't feel like going anywhere major, so I just walked around in one of my favorite wildlife-watching areas of Alexandria. I randomly encountered a Five-lined Skink in the middle of a paved bike path. There seemed to be something wrong with the lizard, because it was having difficulty moving and its right front leg seemed to be missing. I tried to pick it up. The skink eluded me, until it ran under the upturned front of my shoe, and I was able to catch it (the skink, not my shoe). I discovered that the right half of its body was coated with a tar-like substance, and the right front leg had become entirely glued to the side of the body. I walked around holding the skink for a few minutes, not sure what to do, during which time the skink bit me two or three times. I thought about taking it home, but that wouldn't have worked for several reasons. Fortunately, the animal shelter was located only about two hundred yards away, and I dropped the skink off there.

A while later I was walking in the other direction when I got to where I had found the skink. The veterinarian from the animal shelter came out to release the skink, which had been cleaned off with mineral oil. She (the veterinarian, not the skink) said that Five-lined Skinks were frequently seen on the external walls of the animal shelter building. I mentioned that in 2006 I had seen a Ground Skink in the area, but had never seen one again. The veterinarian said that Ground Skinks have been found in the shelter's dog exercise yard.

(This is the Ground Skink from 2006. See the full-sized original here.)


  1. Skinks are cool.

    As I'm sure you remember from college, I had skinks as pets growing up.

    Over a period of years, we had two golden skinks (IMO the prettiest ones) and what I now believe was a broad-headed skink (it certainly had the triangular head, although I remember it being more grey and less brown).

    Yes, there are pictures somewhere, but that was way before the days of digital cameras, so you'll have to use your imagination.

  2. I remember you talking about the Golden Skinks, but I don't remember hearing anything about the other skink. Was it 10-12 inches in total length, which would be the size range for an adult male Broad-headed Skink?