Tonawanda News


September 29, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Blue-tongue skinks at home

Tonawanda News — Six years ago I was taking an Australian wildlife class in Queensland, Australia. I stayed late after a laboratory session and was walking back to my apartment alone. The sun had set and the only light was coming off the metallic buildings. I had trained myself to look down at the ground for the chance of spotting unique or dangerous wildlife. 

This night did not disappoint.

Every day it was easy to spot eastern grey kangaroos. The scary part about them was at night when you could only see their red eyes glowing. They can stand 6 feet, 6 inches tall and you never knew if it was a kangaroo in the bushes or something more frightening. 

I was kind of paying attention to the mob of kangaroos in the distance when I noticed something that was squirming between me and the building. The real reason why I noticed it was due to the hissing. If the animal had remained quite, I would have walked right on by. 

Apparently I was not as trained in the field of spotting wildlife as I thought.

The animal that I encountered hissing and running away was an eastern blue-tongue skink (Tiliqua scincoides). I watched it for a few seconds as it flattened itself and became flush up against a door leading to a classroom. It went under the door and into the classroom. I can only imagine the surprise on the teacher’s face when they opened up for classes the next day.

Although wild animals do not make great pets, captive-bred blue tongue skinks are growing in popularity. Above I included the scientific name for the lizard I was referring to because blue tongue is a very common name for at least twelve different lizards.

Most lizards can smell with their tongues similar to the way snakes can, but to a lesser extent. When these skinks get scared they will keep their blue tongue out and flash it to the predator. If you decide to adopt a skink you should not try to scare it; you will see their tongue quite regularly every time they want to smell something a little better.

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