Photo: Will Brown
Scientific Name: Eumeces (Plestiodon) fasciatus
Abundance: Common throughout most of the state (green)
Species Profile (PDF)
Three species of five-lined skinks occur in North Carolina—the five-lined skink (Eumeces (Plestiodon) fasciatus), southeastern five-lined skink (E. (Plestiodon) inexpectatus) and broadhead skink (E. (Plestiodon) laticeps). The five-lined is probably the most common and widespread of the three, which are sometimes difficult to distinguish. Juveniles of all three species have five stripes and a bright blue tail. Broadhead skinks reach a much larger size than the other two, and adult males, with their bronze bodies and broad orange heads, are unmistakable. The other two species are perhaps most easily identified by examining the scale rows beneath the tail. The middle row is distinctly wider than the other rows in the five-lined (and the broadhead) skink, and about the same size as the other rows in the southeastern five-lined skink. Experienced observers can often distinguish adults of each of the three species at a glance, but juveniles are more difficult. All three of these skinks are sometimes known as “scorpions” in rural folklore and erroneously regarded as venomous. They are completely harmless.
This lizard is highly variable in color and pattern, depending upon the age and sex of an individual. Juveniles are black, with five distinct yellowish stripes and a bright blue tail. Females usually retain this pattern but lose their bright colors as they age.
These skinks occur in a variety of habitats but prefer fairly moist areas. They are most commonly associated with deciduous forests, being especially common around cutover woodlots, clearings or other open areas in or near deciduous or mixed woods. Good spots to observe these lizards are old buildings; rock, log or trash piles; road cuts; stone walls; boardwalks; and bridge foundations. They are largely terrestrial and are often found on the ground under sheltering objects, but they are also excellent climbers, often ascending trees to escape danger. Sometimes they live and nest in tree cavities. Learn more by reading the Five-lined Skink species profile (PDF).
The five-lined skink is classified as a nongame species and has no open season. It is unlawful for any person to take, or have in possession, any nongame mammal or bird unless that person has a collection license or is collecting fewer than 5 reptiles or fewer than 25 amphibians that are not endangered, threatened, or special concerned species.
There are no reported problems with this species. They quickly retreat if closely approached. Some people, however, still fear these completely harmless lizards. Although most specimens will bite if handled, a bite from a large adult produces only a pinch that is more startling than painful. These skinks coexist well with humans in most rural areas, and old buildings, woodpiles and similar structures provide ideal habitat. Like most wildlife, however, they are threatened by urbanization. House cats kill great numbers of these lizards and may even eliminate entire populations. Pesticides may also take a heavy toll.
5-Lined Skink Wildlife Profile (PDF)
Wildlife Diversity Program Quarterly Reports