What kinds of skinks are there in Canada?”

common skinks in Canada

There’s no question that skinks are one of the most misunderstood animals in Canada! Are they snakes, or lizards, or some sort of combination?

 

Interestingly, these creatures are considered lizards, but it’s easy to misidentify them as snakes. They have short limbs, move with a zig-zag pattern, and like to hide under debris just like snakes!

 

Today, you’ll learn the 2 kinds of skinks in Canada!

 


#1. Western Skink

  • Plestiodon skiltonianus

types of skinks in Canada

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 8.5 inches long.
  • This species has a broad brown stripe with black edges on the back, bordered in white on each side.
  • The tail is normally pale blue or gray, but the throat and underside of the tail turn red-orange during the breeding season.
  • Young Western Skink’s tails are brilliant blue.

 

The Western Skink prefers to live in grassland or pine-oak forests near rocky streams and hillsides. This species primarily eats insects and spiders.

You might have trouble finding Western Skinks in Canada!

 

They are uncommon and very secretive! They spend most of their time under rocks or in burrows.

 

Like some other lizard species, the Western Skink is capable of autotomy, which is the severing of its own tail when it’s under threat. Once the tail detaches, it continues to move and wriggle, distracting the predator so the skink can escape. Now THAT is a unique way of dealing with stress!

 

WARNING: If you’re squeamish, this video might not be for you. Please remember the skink does this as a defensive measure and isn’t harmed.

 

There are three subspecies of the Western Skink.

  • Skilton’s Skink, P.s. skiltonianus, is the most widespread subspecies.
  • Great Basin Skink, P.s. utahensis, tends to live in more rocky areas.
  • Coronado Skink, P.s. interparietalis is only found in the southern half of San Diego County in the US.

 


#2. Northern Prairie Skink

  • Plestiodon septentrionalis

species of skinks in Canada

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 9 inches long.
  • Their coloring is olive-brown with multiple light stripes bordered with dark brown.
  • Some individuals have a single stripe in the middle of the back, while others have a pair of stripes.
  • The belly is generally a lighter brown than the back and uniform in color.

 

You’re likely to find Northern Prairie Skinks in open plains and along streambeds in southern Manitoba. They are one of the hardiest species of skinks and can survive extremely cold temperatures.

 

Northern Prairie Skinks have a fascinating way of staying alive during winter. They can burrow below the frost line to stay warm enough not to freeze!

 

Some scientists consider the Northern Prairie Skink and the Southern Prairie Skink to be subspecies. However, they don’t live in the same area, and their appearance is so different that most references give both full species status.


Do you need additional help identifying skinks?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these skinks have you seen in Canada?

 

Leave a comment below!