warmer months, I am asked many questions about lizards, especially skinks
and geckos. Of the almost 6,000 living species of lizards currently
recognized, the ones in these families are the most abundant and widespread
globally, collectively representing more than half of the world's lizards.
United States has only one native species of gecko, the Florida reef
gecko, which is found only in the Florida Keys. The most frequently
encountered gecko in the country is an introduced species, the Mediterranean
gecko, which is almost white with little bumps on the body. Mediterranean
geckos are benign creatures that are completely harmless to humans.
They are not known to cause problems for any native lizard or other
animal. The areas where they persist are around human habitation, which
means most of the native wildlife has already been eliminated or affected
in some way.
are active primarily at night and are often seen prowling around outdoor
lights where they find their prey, insects and spiders. Most southerners
will probably appreciate the information that these geckos will eat
roaches. Predictions by herpetologists are that geckos will become more
and more prevalent in urban areas throughout the Southeast. They have
been documented in most large cities including Orlando, Charleston,
Savannah, Atlanta, Mobile and New Orleans. Interestingly, they are virtually
never found in natural wildlife habitats.
on the other hand are abundant and commonly seen in daytime. At least
one or more kind of skink is native to 47 states. Texas, Alabama, and
Florida each are home to half a dozen or more. Because of the skinks'
prevalence in natural habitats, suburban residential areas, and even
green areas within cities, many people are likely to encounter one type
of skink or another in most parts of the country. Some people who move
from more northern localities to the South seem particularly apprehensive
about these native animals that were already here long before any humans
arrived. Following are questions I have received this year:
We moved from Michigan where we never saw lizards to Atlanta where we
have seen several different kinds, including some our neighbors call
skinks. One lady told us they are poisonous and another said only the
ones with blue tails are. We have two small children. Should we take
some kind of precautions for their safety?
As for the children, you shouldn't worry. No skink in the world is venomous,
so being bitten or stung by one is not a problem. My grandsons catch
them all the time and occasionally get bitten. Skinks run fast and some
climb trees, but the most difficult part about catching a skink is being
careful not to grab the tail. As with many lizards, when a skink is
attacked, its tail will break off and continues to wiggle, distracting
a would-be predator. Some skinks may be poisonous to eat. I have heard
of cats becoming ill from eating blue-tailed skinks, but the information
among veterinarians I have talked to is contradictory and not definitive.
in the southeastern region are similar in behavior, general habitat,
and appearance. Juveniles of the most common species have smooth black
bodies with yellow stripes down the body and a bright metallic blue
tail. This distinctive color pattern is seen in a more subdued fashion
in adult females. Some species, especially the broad-headed skink, get
several inches long and during the breeding season have a bright red
head and coppery brown body.
We transferred to Birmingham during the winter, and after this spring
we have a question. How do you get rid of skinks? Is there some kind
of chemical we can spray?
Removing all ground litter (leaves, pieces of bark, and other hiding
places) close to your house may help. I know of no chemical that would
eliminate skinks without being harmful to many other animals, and possibly
yourselves. Skinks are part of the environment in most southern regions,
so a permanent solution is not likely.
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