Home » For love of the skink

For love of the skink


My love of the skink goes back to my experience as a kid growing up in the South Jersey farmlands of the 1950s. My friends and I led an idyllic life in the summertime. Every day we would gather to explore the corn fields, tangled woods and small creeks that defined our world. One of my favorite pastimes was catching lizards.

 

We got pretty good at spotting them. They would usually be sitting on a sunny spot on a log or branch, or in a pile of wood slash. If you slowly crept up on them from the tail end and moved your hand closer, at a snail’s pace, and then quickly grabbed, you would usually succeed in capturing one. After I grabbed and squashed a particularly colorful specimen, I quickly learned that you need to have a light touch when making contact.

The lizard we stalked 50 years ago was the  northern fence lizard . In Connecticut we have the five-lined skink (Eumeces fasciatus). This is quite a beautiful animal. The young are typically born sporting five yellow lines on their torso and a blue tail. As the lizard matures, its stripes may lighten and eventually disappear. The males develop an attractive orange red coloration on the head during the breeding season.

 

My fondness for lizards returned when I first spotted a five-lined skink while rock-climbing . Right away I recognized the critter skittering across the rock face as a lizard and not a salamander; only later did I learn it was the five-lined skink.

Lizards are reptiles and have the scaly skin and sun-loving nature of all members of the reptilian clan. As a science teacher, I was amazed to find a lizard this far north. How could they live in an area with such cold winters and relatively cool summers?

This question resurfaced when I was looking for a topic for my master’s thesis at Bard College in 1994. While researching the five-lined skink I discovered it to be a rare and threatened species in Connecticut.

To my surprise they not only survive in New England but also all the way into Ontario, Canada. Their specialized habit, which is effectively a natural solar collecting area, allows the skink to thrive in colder climes.

Determining the ecological needs of this lizard is important in preserving lands where it can survive. With this goal in mind I chose to delineate the habitat of the five-lined skink in Connecticut for my master’s thesis. My research showed that slope gradient, amount of exposed rock, number of crevices and density of trees and logs were all crucial to providing a warm refuge for the skink’s survival.

Currently, there are four areas in Connecticut where the five-lined skink continues to survive. Five-lined skinks are very hard to find unless you are a rock climber. Of the 13 skinks I observed in two years of field work, I located most by rappelling the cliff faces.

style="font-size: 10pt"(eumeces fasciatus). this is quite a beautiful animal. the young are typically born sporting five yellow lines on their torso and a blue tail. as the lizard matures, its stripes may lighten and eventually disappear. the males develop an attractive orange red coloration on the head during the breeding season.>

style="font-size: 10pt"goes back to my experience as a kid growing up in the south jersey farmlands of the 1950s. my friends and i led an idyllic life in the summertime. every day we would gather to explore the corn fields, tangled woods and small creeks that defined our world. one of my favorite pastimes was catching lizards. >

Timber rattle snakes also favor the same solar collecting habitat, thus increasing the excitement when examining rock crevices. The endangered species status of the rattle snake is further cause for protecting the south-facing bluffs inhabited by both the five-lined skink and the rattle snake. These rocky areas are good for climbing but not for home building and give me hope that the future for these animals is not too bleak.

 

 

style="font-size: 10pt"also favor the same solar collecting habitat, thus increasing the excitement when examining rock crevices. the endangered species status of the rattle snake is further cause for protecting the south-facing bluffs inhabited by both the five-lined skink and the rattle snake. these rocky areas are good for climbing but not for home building and give me hope that the future for these animals is not too bleak. >

Fred Baumgarten is on vacation this week. Mike Brown is a science teacher at Indian Mountain School in Lakeville. He has lived in Connecticut since 1972. He received his master’s degree in environmental studies at Bard College in 1996.

More Information

TriCorner News

Copyright The Lakeville Journal
860-435-9873
PO Box 1688, Lakeville, CT 06039
All Rights Reserved

Membership