What kinds of skinks are there in New Jersey?”

common skinks in New Jersey

There’s no question that skinks are one of the most misunderstood animals in New Jersey! 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 New Jersey!

 


#1. Common Five-Lined Skink

  • Plestiodon fasciatus

types of skinks in New Jersey

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 8.75 inches long.
  • 5 stripes are most apparent in hatchlings and fade as the skinks grow.
  • Males have orange-red coloring on the jaw during the breeding season.
  • Hatchlings are black with light stripes. The black coloring often fades to gray, and the lighter stripes darken.

 

Look for Common Five-Lined Skinks in New Jersey in wooded areas near rotting stumps, outcrops of rock, and sometimes piles of boards or sawdust. Its diet consists of spiders, beetles, crickets, and other insects.

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

Females attend to their eggs throughout their incubation period.

 

They spend almost all their time defending and caring for the eggs until they hatch!

 

If you happen to come across a nest, you may notice the mother curled up on top of or around the eggs. She also rolls the eggs to maintain their humidity, moves them back to the nest if they become disturbed, and even eats eggs that aren’t viable!

 


#2. Little Brown Skink

  • Scincella lateralis

species of skinks in New Jersey

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 5.75 inches long.
  • Coloring is golden-brown to almost black with dark stripes that usually blend in with the main body color.
  • The belly is white, sometimes with a yellowish cast.

 

In southern New Jersey, Little Brown Skinks are often called Ground Skinks because they live on the forest floor.

 

They can also be found in gardens and urban areas with lots of debris or litter to hide in.

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Believe it or not, Little Brown Snakes have the interesting talent of seeing with their eyes closed! But honestly, it just looks like their eyes are closed. Technically, they have a window in their lower eyelids that allows them to see at all times.

 

That’s a very handy adaptation for one of the smallest reptiles in New Jersey. The Little Brown Skink has many predators, including snakes, larger lizards, and birds of prey. When they try to sneak up on a “sleeping” Little Brown Skink, often the skink can run away using the element of surprise!


Do you need additional help identifying skinks?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these skinks have you seen in New Jersey?

 

Leave a comment below!