If Split Rock Wildway does not have skinks, it may soon. I’ve seen Ground Skinks (Scincella lateralis) on my rambles in the Southeast, and I’ve heard rumors of Five-lined Skinks (Eumeces fasciatus) here on the Adirondack Coast, but I’ve never seen a skink north of Kentucky. Have you? Are the rumors true that Five-lined Skinks form symbiotic relationships with Timber Rattlesnakes? If so, that alliance, together with range maps going north up the Hudson Valley and a warming climate, would suggest our future may be enriched by this smooth, almost salamander-like lizard. Maybe they’re already in the Tongue Range along Lake George, prime rattlesnake habitat, given that at least one guidebook suggests an outlier population in the uplands around Lake George?
Wet Salamanders & Dry Lizards
In the Adirondacks and Northern Appalachians, we are blessed with many salamanders – which are amphibians – but few or no lizards, which are reptiles.
To oversimplify, we find salamanders commonly on our woods walks in spring because we are in a wet region. (We most often see the florid Red Efts, terrestrial phase of the Eastern Newt; but if we’re profoundly fortunate and observant, a dozen more species might let us see them).
If we tread instead Southwest deserts and grasslands, we see a dazzling variety of lizards but few if any salamanders, because there it’s dry.
Skink Link to our Dinosaur Forebears?
Some of you may already know the answers, but I’m anxiously awaiting news on whether we already have skinks in our homeland, and if so, where they are and how we may help ensure they prosper here. Our local population of Timber Rattlesnakes – one of the northern-most outposts for this gentle, comely reptile – might tell us, if we listen carefully, how to live harmoniously with our region’s one true lizard, a poignant affiliation with our dinosaur forebears of 70 million years ago. If skinks come our way, they will need protected areas, like Split Rock Wild Forest, with plenty of rocky ground and down logs and leaf-litter for cover, where they will quietly dart about, feeding on insects.
Note: The content in this blog post was repurposed and a revised version is included in John Davis’s book Split Rock Wildway: Scouting the Adirondack Park’s Most Diverse Wildlife Corridor published by Essex Editions on Nov. 21, 2017. Learn more about the book and where to buy it at essexeditions.com. Watch the book trailer below.
- Split Rock Wildway: Creating and Protecting a Wildlife Corridor (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Spring Song: Frogs of the Adirondacks (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Skinks caught for breeding programme (radionz.co.nz)
- Snakes at Split Rock (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Awesome Animals: Skink (beefyhouse.com)
- Scincella lateralis (Ground Skink) in Residential Valdosta, Georgia; 10 May 2013 (darwinstrailschile.wordpress.com)
- Scincella lateralis, the Ground Skink; 09 April 2014 (anthonyvenable110.wordpress.com)
- Baby five-lined skink (retrieverman.wordpress.com)
- Skink in the spring (michaelqpowell.wordpress.com)
- Five-Lined Skink Remains A Phenomenon In Connecticut’s Year Of The Lizard (newyork.cbslocal.com)