The Adventures of Five-lined Skinks

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #4

I have held onto three and a half months of five-lined skink photos, hoping I would capture better images of a juvenile. I finally got the chance this past Sunday. They’re incredibly fast making it difficult to get decent images. These little critters have provided so much entertainment and amusement over the past few months that I will miss them when they go into hibernation.

During the couple of weeks while we were cleaning the trailer and preparing to move, I generally kept all the windows and doors open while I was there to air out the house. One day I noticed this adult five-lined skink in the hallway by the back door. It must have walked right in to escape the sun. After the first few weeks here, I realized that those back steps are a favorite hangout for these skinks to sunbathe.

Adult Five-lined Skink #1

Unintentionally, I terrorized this poor skink trying to coax it back outside. After a few minutes of chasing it through the house to no avail, I decided to give it a break to catch its breath while I grabbed my camera — keeping an eye on its whereabouts. The house was still completely empty, so that wasn’t too hard. After taking this photo and calmly talking to it, it finally scampered out the front door with little effort from me.

In the next few weeks, I only saw the juveniles. Many times I walked out that back door only to have one fall on my head as I opened the door. Yes, I squealed every time, but immediately laughed at myself and the silly skinks who I would swear were trying to make “contact.” After observing them for the past few months, I’ve reached the conclusion that they must be curious creatures.

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #1

Several have ventured into the house. Moses brought my attention to one as he quickly darted under my desk in pursuit of an intruder invading his territory. Luckily, I managed to capture it and released it out in the woods away from the house. I did this with two others as well. One of which hitchhiked into the house in my hair! That particular day, I was trying to photograph the little bugger when it must have climbed into my hair without my realizing it. My hair is down to my waist now, so it had the perfect ladder. When I couldn’t find my subject that I was trying to photograph, I walked inside to use the restroom and happened to brush through my hair, brushing it out. How I didn’t feel it there I’ll never know.

One wasn’t so lucky. I apologize for the gruesome nature of the following photo. I almost didn’t include it, but I wanted to mention a piece of folklore that is prominent here in the South.

The Perils of Cats vs. Prey

Folklore: In the South, the skinks, especially the adult male broad-headed skinks are sometimes called ‘scorpions’ and some people believe their bite to be poisonous.  Herpetologists formerly scoffed at this folklore, but as is often the case with animal myths, this belief may be rooted in some degree of truth.  It is now known that if a juvenile still exhibiting its bright blue tail is eaten by a cat, serious neurological symptoms such as a loss of balance, crossing of the eyes, paralysis and even death may follow.  This would indicate that the bright coloration and markings of the young skink are actually warning colors similar to that displayed by the poison arrow frog.” [Source: “Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.Jacksonville Zoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.]

When I was a child, my family had a beloved Persian cat named Socks. One summer day, he became very ill, showing the exact same neurological symptoms listed above that eventually led to his death within a short period of time. At the time, we also discovered the blue tail from one of these skinks. We, of course, concluded that the skink was responsible for his death. Ask anyone in my family today, and we’ll still swear that this is true. In my research on skinks and other lizards, I’ve read several accounts like this.

However, I’ve also read numerous statements from scientific sources stating that these skinks are neither poisonous nor venomous. A few years ago, I did run across one article that stated something to the effect that skinks could carry bacteria that cause these neurological symptoms. I’m afraid I can no longer find the source to back that up; but it’s possible that when pets eat a skink and have a bad reaction like that of our cat, Socks, they could be suffering from an extremely bad case of food poisoning. Don’t quote me on this. I’m simply sharing what I’ve read. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about the toxicity of skinks to pets; and some veterinarians have even claimed that there may not be enough research to prove one way or another what exactly is going on.

Back to the image above, none of our cats got sick. Whoever killed that poor skink, never showed any symptoms. I never did find that skink’s blue tail, either. I still wouldn’t risk my cats’ lives by allowing them to “play” with a skink should I know one is in the house. I also have a heart. If I can rescue a critter from our perfectly capable hunters, I will. It’s just unfortunate that I missed this one.

It wasn’t until August 21st that I saw another adult five-lined skink. I just happened to glance over at this tree while sitting outside when I noticed this one. I slowly crept up on it as I snapped this first one.

Adult Five-lined Skink #2

After getting closer, it ran circles around the tree before finally calming down in my presence. This allowed me to get a second shot as our eyes connected for the first time. There is no doubt in my mind that there is intelligence in the mind of a reptile.

Adult Five-lined Skink #3

On September 3rd, I tried my best to get a good photo of this juvenile. Unfortunately, this was the best that I got. Still not nearly as good as I would have liked in a photo.

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #2

Which brings me to this past Sunday, September 28th. These have to be my absolute favorite photos of a five-lined skink that I’ve taken all summer. The day before while I was busy weeding the area around our back steps, I found (pretty sure it’s the same one) this skink under a flower pot. I must have startled it pretty good because it froze in fear. Since I had on gloves, I reached out and picked it up, inspecting it closely before telling it to run along so it didn’t get hurt by the shears. I didn’t take the time to release it down in the woods.

On Sunday, I noticed it hanging around on the steps. For some reason, this particular skink was very docile and tamer than others I’ve encountered. I went inside to grab my camera. As I was coming out the back door, it somehow landed on me, hanging on for dear life.

I'm A Skink Magnet

Yes, I giggled in glee; but had the presence of mind to snap a photo. I cautiously walked over to the lawn furniture, not wanting it to fall off and get stepped on. It hopped off onto a chair and allowed me a wonderful photo shoot.

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #3

Juvenile Five-lined Skink #5

Even with the great number of five-lined skinks that I saw over the summer, there should have been more since a brood of eggs can be as high as 15 to 18! I enjoyed interacting with them. As the weather will undoubtedly be cooling off soon, I’m sure I won’t be seeing much more of these little characters. I will look forward to their return in Spring. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “The Adventures of Five-lined Skinks

    1. Thank you! I’m surprised I saw so many. This place was vacant for so long, though, it shouldn’t have surprised me. My guess is that Mama skink won’t lay her eggs so close to the house next spring; but who knows, I could be wrong, lol.

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