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Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network - Réseau Canadien de 
Conservation des Amphibiens et des Reptiles

Plestiodon septentrionalis,

formerly Eumeces septentrionalis

Prairie Skink / Scinque des Prairies


Prairie Skink

Description
The Prairie Skink is brown with a series of light stripes that run down its back onto the tail. Breeding males have orange on their heads. Juveniles have bright blue tails. The Prairie Skink can grow to just over 20 cm in total length, counting the tail which can be longer than the body.

Confusing Species
There are no other lizards in Manitoba. The only other skinks in Canada are found in British Columbia (Western Skink) and southern Ontario (Five-lined Skink).

Distribution
Prairie Skinks in Canada are disjunct from the main distribution in the US. In Manitoba it is limited to a areas along the Assiniboine River. To the south, the Prairie Skink is found in a narrow band through the US to the Gulf Coast.

Habitat
In Manitoba, the Prairie Skink is limited to sandy areas along the Assiniboine River. The soft sand allows the skink to burrow down suffficiently into the ground to overwinter successfully.

Reproduction
Breeding occurs in the spring and the female can lay from 5-18 eggs. The female broods the eggs until they hatch during the summer.

Natural History
The Prairie Skink is often found under rocks, boards, or in leaf litter. It is an active hunter consuming a variety of insects and other invertebrates. If attacked, the lizard's tail will break off at a fracture plane. The twitching tail distracts the potential preadator while the skink escapes. A new tail is eventually re-grown.

Conservation Concerns
Limited to only a small area in Manitoba and disconnected from populations to the south, the Prairie Skink faces a number of risks. In addition, fire suppression is resulting native prairie grasslands turning into Aspen forests, a habitat unsuitable for skinks. Leafy Spurge, an invasive alien plant, also appears to be eliminating skink habitat. As a result, the Prairie Skink is designated Endangered by COSEWIC.