“What kinds of skinks are there in South Dakota?”
There’s no question that skinks are one of the most misunderstood animals in South Dakota! 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 South Dakota!
RELATED: The 10 Types of SNAKES That Live in South Dakota! (ID Guide)
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#1. Many-Lined Skink
- Plestiodon multivirgatus
- 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 southwestern South Dakota 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!
#2. Northern Prairie Skink
- Plestiodon septentrionalis
- 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 eastern South Dakota. 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 South Dakota?
Leave a comment below!