What kinds of skinks are there in Utah?”

common skinks in Utah

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

 


#1. Western Skink

  • Plestiodon skiltonianus

types of skinks in Utah

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 Utah!

 

Even though they are common, they are 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. Many-Lined Skink

  • Plestiodon multivirgatus

species of skinks in UtahBy 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 southeastern Utah 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!


Do you need additional help identifying skinks?

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these skinks have you seen in Utah?

 

Leave a comment below!