3 Skinks Found in New Mexico! (ID Guide)

What kinds of skinks are there in New Mexico?”

common skinks in New Mexico

There’s no question that skinks are one of the most misunderstood animals in New Mexico! 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 3 kinds of skinks in New Mexico!

#1. Great Plains Skink

  • Plestiodon obsoletus

types of skinks in New Mexico

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 13 inches long.
  • Coloring ranges from light gray or olive to tan, with darker brown markings.
  • The tail and feet are usually pale yellow or orange, and the belly is often marked with salmon.
  • Young individuals are black with an iridescent blue tail and gold spots on the head.

Great Plains Skinks in New Mexico are frequently found in prairie grassland with open, low-growing plants. However, they occasionally also live in woodland or semi-arid desert areas.

Great Plains Skinks are very aggressive if threatened!

They hide under rocks, shrubs, or logs but are very likely to bite if they are disturbed or handled. So, if you happen to find one, observe with caution!

In addition, they’re aggressive hunters and will eat insects, snails, spiders, and even other lizards.

#2. Many-Lined Skink

  • Plestiodon multivirgatus

species of skinks in New MexicoBy Joefarah – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 7.5 inches long.
  • The tail is much longer than the body compared to other skinks: roughly 1 to 1.5 times as long.
  • Light and dark stripes run the length of the body.
  • During the breeding season, many males develop orange or red lips.

Many-Lined Skinks in New Mexico prefer areas with water or moist soil.

They live in various habitats, from mountain areas to vacant lots and even city dumps! Their primary food source is ant larvae and other insects.

Young Many-Lined Skinks have bright blue tails. A uniquely colored tail is a defensive strategy that helps attract predators away from the skink’s body! If a predator tries to bite or grab the skink, it can drop its tail and escape!

There are two subspecies of this skink.

  • Northern Many-Lined Skink (P.m. multivirgatus) generally has more well-defined stripes and is almost always gray and black.
  • Variable Skink (P.m. epipleurotus) comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The subspecies’ ranges don’t overlap, and some scientists consider them two separate species!

#3. Mountain Skink

  • Plestiodon callicephalus

common skinks in New Mexico

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are up to 2.75 inches long from snout to vent (length does not include the tail).
  • Coloring in adults is olive to tan, with a muddy blue tail.
  • The young of this species have a bright blue tail and much more defined lines.
  • Adults have a white or light orange Y-shaped mark on the head.

Mountain Skinks are found in southwestern New Mexico in pine and oak forests in mountain regions. They eat beetles, flies, cockroaches, and spiders.

You can easily tell the difference between Mountain Skinks and other species because this skink keeps its blue tail into adulthood most of the time! Usually, the color is not as bright.

Mountain Skinks in New Mexico can give birth to live young!

But weirdly, they can lay eggs too. It just depends on their specific habitat and other conditions. When they do lay eggs, the female skink will tend to them until they hatch.

Do you need additional help identifying skinks?

Try this field guide!

Which of these skinks have you seen in New Mexico?

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