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The Blue-Tail Skink

The variety of wildlife around the lake is one of its many attractions.

One of the things we love about our lake house is the wildlife. You never know when or where to expect to see one of the many local varieties of wildlife. We are fortunate to be surrounded by quite a large variety of wildlife at the lake. We spot beavers, blue heron, orioles, turtles, and of course, many kinds of ordinary and unusual insects and spiders regularly.

One of the most innocuous and amusing wildlife visitors at our lake house is a lizard called the skink. We get several varieties of these lizards, such as the blue-tailed skink (Eumeces fasciatus) that loses its blue tail after it matures, and becomes the five-lined skink, and the little brown skink, or ground skink (Scincella lateralis).

When pursued, the skink runs away from predators. If the tail is pulled, the end of the skink's tail will break off easily. Sometimes the tail keeps moving after it is pulled off. This is a method of decoying a possible predator to go after the tail fragment rather than the skink. If it is pulled off, the tail will heal but remain short. Although they can survive without their tails, children should be discouraged from pulling the tails off, as the lizard's ability to perform courtship, produce eggs, and escape future predators is adversely affected by losing the tail, since the tail holds usable energy.

We often see the skinks scampering on the loose stone retaining walls we have put up, or on the flowers I plant in pots by the house. We have had a few get into the house, but we usually manage to herd them outdoors without hurting them.

Not only are the skinks harmless, as well as fun to watch, they are beneficial to us. They eat small bugs, such as ants, wood roaches, wood boring beetles, spiders, and leafhoppers. They forage for their prey by thrusting their snout under fallen leaves and other yard debris. We often hear them before we see them, as they rustle through the dry leaves.

Like many of our other wildlife visitors, the skinks enrich our visits to the lake with their presence. Whenever we spot one we all stop to watch its darting movements for a moment. They are among the many wonders of nature that make the lake a special place.


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