These skinks range as far north as southern Ontario, and as far south as Florida. They can be found nearly anywhere in the Eastern United States. In Canada they are endangered and therefore protected there. In Missouri it is legal to possess them as a pet, but they can be difficult to raise and often hide making them hard to observe. Truly they are best left in their natural habitats and observed there.
Adult males can be extremely territorial and will often act aggressively towards any intruding males within their territory. Adult males will tolerate females, and juvenile males within their given territories as they are not viewed as potential competition for mates. Males will approach females that they intend to mate with and bite down on the neck of the female. He will then use his tail to line up both of their cloacal openings. Males possess a hemipenes, which is essentially like possessing two penis'. He will insert one hemipene at a time to fertilize the female. Fertilization is internal and the female will lay eggs sometime in May or June. The female will guard the eggs which cuts down on predation and increases the odds that her offspring will survive. She will typically choose old rotting stumps, logs, under rocks, or under leaf litter as a prime egg laying location. She will deposit up to 18 eggs that will hatch in a couple of months. Once hatched they will reach sexual maturity in about 2 to 3 years, and will live up to 6 years.
(Male and Female cuddling up to each other)
Like many lizard species, skinks will drop their tails if grabbed. This affords them a certain amount of protection from predation. A potential predator who grabs the skink by the tail will find himself with a mouthful of tail and little else as the lizard beats a hasty retreat. The tail will regenerate itself, by gradually growing with each molt that the lizard experiences.
I recently received a phone call at the office where I work from a gentleman who was accustomed to seeing these lizards in abundance in his yard had noticed this year he had no skinks. He wanted to know if there was some place he could buy these lizards or could find these lizards to restock his property. He missed the skinks and could not understand where they could have gone. I asked him if he had altered his landscape in any way....he said he had not. He had not noticed any increase in predators either. I told him there was no way to buy these lizards in Missouri as it was illegal to sell them. I also told him that finding them in the wild in abundance would be difficult and there was no relocation or restocking program for things like skinks. I also advised him that it isn't a good idea to do that sort of thing anyway, as it increases the potential for diseases to spread to your local populations. I suggested to him that the lack of rain we've been experiencing was probably the culprit for his skinks suddenly disappearing. They are moisture loving lizards and probably could no longer find adequate damp locations to thrive. I told him to be patient and that hopefully when the rains come, the skinks will return. I was thrilled that he loved his little skinks so much and I hope they do come back for him.
This is the first year we've noticed them in our backyard, and we've found several near our goldfish pond and a few inside the greenhouse. I hope they are happily eating numerous insects and helping control harmful insect populations. It is always fun to spot one of these little beauties as it tries to hide in the brush pile, or rocks long our pond. Those bright orange heads and bright blue tails give them away however.