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Skinks are plentiful in area gardens

Posted: July 20, 2014 - 12:01am
A mother skink on a nest. Special Photo
A mother skink on a nest. Special Photo

Martinez residents Jan and Paul Griffin were working in their backyard garden one recent afternoon when they came across a mother skink and her nest. A member of the lizard family, the big-bodied skink frightens many people just because of its sheer size; others just detest the things all together. Still, others find them fascinating.

“At first she thought it was a small snake,” said Paul of his wife’s reaction to discovering the nest. “After we looked at it, I knew it was a skink nest. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

The Griffins were able to get close to the nest without the mother running off. In fact, they took photos just inches from the nest.

Skinks are widely seen in the CSRA, particularly during this time of year when the females are nesting. According to one local expert, there are four main species of the skink that are seen in our area.

“The three species of blue-tailed skinks are the most commonly seen,” notes Dr. Whit Gibbons, professor emeritus of ecology at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Lab in Aiken, “The broad-headed skink is probably the most common where we are but the other two could also the around,” he said.

The five-lined skink, Southeastern five-lined skink and broadhead skink are among the most common in the CSRA.

“The small, brown ground skink is common but less likely to be seen because it stays in the leaf litter or under pine straw,” said Dr. Gibbons.

Dr. Gibbons explained that this is the time of year that skinks are mating and laying eggs, so spotting a skink nest isn’t all that rare.

“The nests are usually hidden under a rock or log or in a tree hole, but the females show maternal care and stay with the eggs,” he said.

According to Columbia County Extension Agent Tripp Williams, a female skink lays “clutches of several eggs in moist soil or rotten logs during the summer and attend the eggs until they hatch.”

Egg laying depends on the type of skink in question, but can range from 12 to 22, with a female skink laying several “clutches” in a season.

“The incubation period is 30 to 50 days, depending on the warmth of the site where they are laid,” said Williams.

Skinks, while a little creepy looking, pose no real danger. In fact, they prey on a variety of insects, spiders and other invertebrates.

“Skinks are part of the native fauna that eat a lot of insects, including roaches, and provide prey for a lot of other native species, such as hawks, snakes, egrets and mammals,” said Dr. Gibbons.

“They are of absolutely no danger to a person. My grandkids pick them up and let them bite them all the time,” Dr. Gibbons continued. “It doesn’t even break the skin. Most people find them very pretty with the blue tails when they are young and the big males with red heads when they are adults.”

“There are no dangers other than the harm you might do to yourself if you are afraid of them,” added Williams.

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