DO YOU DO WITH TOO MANY SKINKS?
by Whit Gibbons
May 21, 2006
The great thing about this time of year is that I get to see a lot more
natural phenomena unfold out of doors, and the ecological questions about
plants and animals come in daily from a variety of people. A second great
thing is that I am certain that many of the questions being asked are
revealing about people's changing attitudes toward our native wildlife,
from negative and ignorant to positive and enlightened. The following
is one I received last week.
Q. - I was
looking around your reptile and amphibian website (www.uga.edu/srelherp)
to find some information on a certain kind of lizard. I believe I have
a small family of these lizards at our new home here in Columbia, SC.
Based on your pictures the lizard is a broad-headed skink. I am very concerned
that we have a family of these living close to our house and was wondering
if there is a way to get rid of them, or to remove them without harming
them. We have a small child, and although you indicate that some people
falsely believe skinks have a venomous stinger, you say they are harmless
to people. However, maybe these beliefs are true. Is there anything that
you know of that we can do in order to remove them from our property?
In protection of my child, I just don't believe that they should be hanging
around like the geckos we have outside of the house as well. If there
is any information you can give me that would be greatly appreciated.
A. - Your question is noteworthy from a point of irony in that you are
interested in getting rid of a native species (the broad-headed skink)
that is completely harmless to humans and eats lots of roaches, termites,
and other insects, whereas you are not concerned with an introduced species
(geckoes) that are not native. Geckoes do no harm either, but you definitely
do not want to get rid of the skinks. They would never bite a person unless
you picked one up and put your finger in its mouth. Even if you did, it
does not hurt. Try to learn to enjoy these fascinating animals (the males
have bright red heads in the spring, and the juveniles and young females
have bright blue tails). Skinks are good to have around and can even be
entertaining to watch. There is no way they can hurt you or your child
I should add that while the belief that skinks or any other lizards have
stingers on their tails is completely false, some scientists speculate
that some species of blue-tailed skinks are bad-tasting to many predators
and can even be lethal to cats that eat them. But as far as having a neat
animal roaming around your house, skinks are ideal. The males fight in
the springtime (such as now) and the females lay their eggs in rotting
wood and actually guard the eggs. The little ones with bright blue tails
will appear during the summer.
query about lizards has two features I find very encouraging. First, the
mother did not immediately call an exterminator or try to eliminate the
skinks herself. Instead, she searched for some information about what
kind of animal she was observing, figured out what kind of lizard it was
from the website, and then pursued if further by inquiring. The second
positive part is that she sent a followup email that stated: "Thank
you very much for informing me on skinks a little more. Glad to know that
they are not harmful. I'm a woman who loves nature and will do just about
anything not to harm something as long as I know it will not do any harm
to my child in the long run."
the way environmental education should work. Nature is too complex for
any of us to know everything. But taking an unprejudiced approach of finding
out the true danger of something and then discovering, as is usually the
case, that they are completely or mostly harmless, can help anyone get
more enjoyment out of the natural world.
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