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Canadian Herpetological Society





Société d'herpétologie du Canada



Plestiodon skiltonianus,

formerly Eumeces skiltonianus

Western Skink / Scinque de l'Ouest


Western Skink
Description
The Western Skink is a long and slender lizard. It has a wide brown stripe down its back bordered by a cream stripe on each side. The tail of adults is grayish, while juveniles have bright blue tails. Adult males have orange on the sides of the head during the breeding season. Western Skinks can grow to over 20 cm in length, counting the tail which is longer than the body.

Confusing Species
The only other lizard native to British Columbia is the Northern Alligator Lizard which is olive brown or gray with a few or many small dark spots. The tail is the same colour as the body and the Alligator Lizard has dark longitudinal stripes on the belly. The european Common Wall Lizard has been introduced, but is currently confined to Victoria.

Distribution
The Western Skink is limited to extreme southcentral BC, particularly the southern Okanagan Valley. It is found across much of the western US, as far south as California and northern Arizona.

Habitat
The preferred habitat is grassland or open woodlands. It is often found in rocky areas near streams, but can be found a substantial distance from water. It spends most of its time under rocks or logs or inside rotten logs.

Reproduction
Mating occurs in the spring and the females will lay up to 10 eggs, although only 3-4 are more common in the north. The eggs are laid in burrows or under rocks. The female remains with her eggs, brooding them until they hatch in mid- to late-summer.

Natural History
The Western Skink is active during the day although it is rarely seen. A carnivore, it hunts prey (a variety of insects) in the leaf litter. 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
In Canada, the Western Skink is limited to a small area in southern British Columbia undergoing extensive development. Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation as a result of expanding agriculture and urbanization pose a significant threat to this lizard. It has been designated Special Concern by COSEWIC.