2001-Tue Jan 17 18:48:27 MST 2017
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Although many people don’t know what a skink is, they actually
make great reptile pets and have become increasingly popular in the past few
years. Perhaps the most popular pet
skink is the blue-tongued skink (or “blue tongue”), a group of lizard species
that are all typically fairly large and found mainly in Australia but also in
New Guinea, Tasmania and Indonesia. While these animals are sometimes captured
from the wild and sold by unscrupulous dealers, those available in the U.S. are
mostly bred in captivity to be kept as pets. You really want to obtain a captive-bred skink, as these animals likelier will be healthier, easier to handle and
not taken from their wild home.
The skink family of lizards that blue tongues belong to is comprised
of more than 1,500 different species, most of which have no necks and very short
legs (some species actually have no legs or feet at all and move more like
snakes). Many species have long, tapered tails that they can release and break
off if they are grabbed by a predator and that they can subsequently grow back.
Despite this fact, skinks in captivity should not be picked up or restrained in
any way by the tail. If the tail does happen to break off, it’s a good idea to
have a veterinarian take a look at the injury to make sure no medical
intervention (such as antibiotics or wound care, if it isn’t a clean break) is
Depending on the species, skinks range in size from 3 to 18
inches long or more, snout to tail tip, and many — although not all — skink species
are predominantly carnivores or specifically insectivores, consuming crickets,
flies, various beetles, worms and caterpillars, plus occasional small rodents.
In the wild, many skinks dig and bury themselves underground in tunnels where
they can hide from predators such as raccoons, foxes, snakes, hawks and
opossums, while a few species are arboreal (tree-climbers). Most are active
during the day and love to bask in the sun. Many skink species lay eggs and
nest under foliage or under the edges of buildings, while a few give birth to
live young. They can be very territorial and protective of their nest sites.
There are lots of reasons why I recommend blue-tongued
skinks over other types of skinks or even over many other reptiles as pets.
Here are a few cool facts you might like to know, as well as some things you
should be aware of if you are thinking of bringing one home:
tongues really are blue! Blue tongues are
called such because they have a large, bright blue tongue that they stick out
to try to ward off enemies. They have short legs, broad bodies and triangular-shaped
heads and can live 15 to 20 years in captivity.
generally happy to be handled. Blue tongues tend
to be gentle, intelligent, inquisitive, easily tamed lizards that often like to
be handled. Many even enjoy being petted or having their heads scratched. Children
should be supervised when handling them, as the reptiles can become startled and jump.
They can mistake small fingers for worms if they’re hungry, so be careful not
to handle them when they haven’t eaten in a while, and be sure to wash hands
after handling, as all reptiles can carry Salmonella bacteria.
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