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Promoting Public Awareness Of Wildlife Habitats Through Environmental Education

The Five Lined Skink

Five-Lined Skink

5 lined skink-web

Did you know that Ontario actually has its own lizard! The Five-Lined Skink is Ontario’s only native species of lizard that still exists in the wild today. This amazing reptile is a great example of the unique fauna present in our province. The Five-Lined Skink is a small, smooth lizard with black or grey colouring and five white or yellow stripes along its back. Young lizards have a bright blue tail, but this fades with age and turns to grey. Males can be distinguished from females by their broader heads and orange jaws and chin. Adults can reach a length of 20 cm. Skinks are very active predators darting from place to place, feeding on worms and other small invertebrates. They play a beneficial roll in helping control insect pest populations.

There are two populations of Five-Lined Skinks in Ontario, the Carolinian and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence populations. The Carolinian population is endangered provincially and nationally. They occur in Carolinian forest and prefer woody habitat with sandy soil and ground cover. They use woody debris as shelter and hibernate by burying themselves in the soil. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population is considered a special concern provincially and nationally, occur on the southern part of the Canadian Shield. Their preferred habitat is on rocky outcrops in mixed coniferous and deciduous forest where they seek refuge from the elements and predators.

Five-lined skinks reach sexual maturity at just two years of age. They breed in May and early June. Females lay 2 to 15 eggs in the early summer and prefer to nest in excavated cover or within rotting logs. Several females may nest together and will protect their nest from predators. Females bask in the sun and return to the nest to use their bodies to warm their eggs, which hatch in late summer. The hatchlings are approximately three centimetres long.

Like most of our native reptiles, the Five-Lined Skink has unfortunately not been able to escape the special concern/endangered list. This lizard used to be common throughout southwestern Ontario, but due to most of the natural landscape being converted for agricultural and urban uses, the ongoing habitat loss has drastically reduced Five-Lined Skinks numbers, especially the Carolinian populations. The Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence population is also facing habitat loss and fragmentation as roads and cottages continue to develop. The illegal pet trade isn’t helping matters either as they are being taken from their natural habitats. The biggest threat to Five-Lined Skink populations however, is without a doubt, road mortality. A study done at Point Pelee National Park documented a road mortality level of almost one Skink per day!

This unique native species of lizard is our only species of lizard, and we should be aware of the damage we humans are causing to these wonderful animals. We all should work together to spread as much awareness as possible, so that everyone may realise we have the power to correct these mistakes, and move forward into the future knowing that our children will be able to enjoy the natural environment as our ancestors did before us.