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Western Skink

The western skink (Eumeces skiltonianus) occurs throughout much of the western United States, as well as in parts of Baja California and southwestern Canada. In Utah, the species occurs in the western part of the state, where it is usually found in scrub oak, sagebrush, grassland, or juniper habitats. Western skinks are active during the day, but are rarely seen due to their secretive nature. Young western skinks have bright blue tails. The general consensus is that this attracts the attention of predators towards the tail and away from the head and body. The tail breaks off easily and twitches for a period of time. This draws the attention of predators to the tail and often allows the skink to escape an attacking bird, snake, or larger lizard.

Natural History

Western skinks eat a variety of invertebrates, including insects, spiders, and worms. Body color fades with age and molts. The tails of adults range from light blue to very light powder blue to gray. Tails of the males are usually brighter blue than females, although tails in both sexes of adults are not as bright as those of the juveniles.

The western skink at right is likely an adolescent.

The western skink reaches sexual maturity at age two, but begins actively breeding at about age three. The oldest animals found are believed to be about nine years old. Males and females live separately. Females nest on south facing rocky hills, under rocks in the open, or under rocks that are partially covered by sage, oak or junipers. Under these rocks, the female digs loose moist earth burrows. Males live nearby females, under rocks in short tunnels rather than an enlarged burrow. The breeding season is May through June. In July, females lay one clutch of eggs with two to six eggs in a clutch. The young hatch in August. The female stays with her eggs and hatchlings, fiercely guarding them until they are old enough to leave the burrows.

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