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Skinks in Florida

There are 14 different types of skinks in Florida. Some of these are native to Florida, while others are invasive species.

This article will cover all the types and give useful facts about each one. So, whether you are a skink collector or are simply here to learn about skinks in Florida, there is something for you.

Skinks are lizards with shiny, sometimes colorful, scaly skin and reduced but functioning limbs. They are fast crawlers that often lack distinct heads.

If you are not familiar with skinks, you may mistake one for a snake at first glance. That is because skinks move in a wavy fashion and have long, slender bodies like snakes.

Unlike snakes, skinks are not venomous. If you plan to get a skink pet, there are several species you can choose from.

Besides keeping skinks as pets, you can benefit from having one wander around in your garden. They feed on small insects and can help you control pests.

These beautiful reptiles are one of the most diverse lizard groups in the world. Of the 14 species found in Florida, 11 are native to the state. The last three on this list are invasive species.

Skinks in Florida

1. Little Brown Skink

Little Brown Skink (Scincella lateralis) on dry sand near Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, Taylor County, Florida, USA
A Little Brown Skink (Scincella lateralis) on dry sand near Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, Taylor County, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Scincella lateralis
  • Other Names: Ground Skink
  • Adult Size: 3 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 2 to 4 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Ground skinks are widespread in Florida and many states in the US. They come in different colors, but most ground skinks you will encounter in Florida are copper brown with white or yellowish bellies. They also have a strip of dark skin running along both sides of their body.

You can find little brown skinks in moist areas with lots of leaves and substrate matter. They often hide under leaves and travel fast. By the time you notice the leaves rustle, these skinks have moved on.

Little brown skinks are unique because they are permanent ground dwellers. Other skinks tend to climb trees, but ground skinks never do. So, if you decide to keep one, you do not have to worry about putting branches or high basking spots in its enclosure.

Ground skinks are diurnal, but some are also active at night. These brown lizards may hibernate underground for months if the weather becomes too cold to bear.

These lizards feed on substrate matter and arthropods like beetles and spiders. However, when you keep these skinks, try not to restrict their diet to arthropods. Adding fruits and vegetables to this skink’s diet is great for variety and boosting nutrient supply.

2. Florida Sand Skink

Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi) in some sand near Lake George, Ocala National Forest, Florida, USA
A Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi) in some sand near Lake George, Ocala National Forest, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon reynoldsi
  • Other Names: Sand Skink
  • Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Lifespan: 3+ years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The Florida sand skink is native to Florida and does not occur naturally anywhere else in the world. This skink is typically gray, with a black or brown stripe running along the sides of its head.

This lizard likes moist environments and lives in scrubs with litter. It tends to burrow into the sand and stay there. It has tiny eyes with partially transparent lids that help it see even when covered with surface sand.

It has smooth, shiny scales and looks more like a snake than most skink species. The tail accounts for most of its body length. Its legs are smaller than those of other skinks and pressed close to its body.

You might have difficulty seeing its forelegs sometimes. That is because this sand skink possesses grooves on its body which it can fold its forelegs into. This adaptation gives it a hyper-streamlined shape that helps it move easily in loose sand.

Florida skinks are a threatened species in the US, so you will have difficulty purchasing them legally. Besides being few naturally, urbanization destroys most of their natural habitats in Florida.

You can feed this lizard with insects like beetles, ants, and termites.

3. Broadhead Skink

Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) on a treetrunk at Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
A Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) on a treetrunk at Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon laticeps
  • Other Names: Broadhead Scorpion
  • Adult Size: 6 to 13 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

You can quickly identify males of this species by their distinct heads. They have broad, triangular heads that turn red to orange when they mature.

The body of this skink is gray to brown in male adults. Female adults have five light stripes running along their backs. These stripes are why people sometimes mistake them for other five-lined species.

Younger broadhead skinks have light stripes on their brown skin and blue tails. You may hear people call juvenile broadheads scorpions. Many people do this because they assume having blue tails makes these skinks poisonous, but this is untrue.

Though they sometimes look menacing, broadheads are not venomous. It is not uncommon to see males fight each other, however. These fights usually happen over access to mating partners.

Broadheads are not as easy to tame as some other skink species. They might never fully warm up to you. While they are pleasing to look at, broadhead skinks will likely run from you if you try to pet them.

These skins might bite you when you pet them. Their bite is harmless, but it can hurt. However, if you collect skinks for display, this beautiful pet just might be your type.

Broadheads live in wooded areas with lots of leaf litter. Keep broadhead pets in places similar to their natural habitat. Ensure the place is well-spaced, warm and has leaf litters.

Of all the skinks in Florida, this species climbs the most. Adults like to bask in the sun and often climb exposed branches high up on trees. If you keep these skinks, consider including basking spots above ground level in their enclosure.

You can feed broadhead skinks with various types of insects. These lizards have strong jaws and can eat tiny vertebrates too.

4. Southeastern Five-lined Skink

Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus) on a tree with mossy bark just outside of Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Florida, USA
A Southeastern Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon inexpectatus) on a tree with mossy bark just outside of Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon inexpectatus
  • Other Names: Five-lined Skink, Scorpion
  • Adult Size: 5 to 8.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A 

You might have difficulty visually distinguishing this skink from the common five-lined skink. If you struggle with this, you are not alone.

Scientists named this species “inexpectatus” because its discovery was unexpected. For over a century, taxonomists did not realize it was a separate species from the common five-lined skink.

Southeastern five-lined skinks are slightly larger and have broader stripes. These stripes are black in young skinks, but they often fade into brown in adults. Their tails are bright blue and purple, but adults do not always retain this coloration.

These blue-tailed skinks make good pets and are easy to manage in captivity.

Keep their enclosure moist and well-planted, so they can have places to hide. These skinks enjoy life on the ground but like to climb too. So ensure they have spots they can climb to bask in the sun when in captivity.

Like other skinks, this species is primarily insectivorous, and it enjoys feasting on large prey like grasshoppers. But if you want variety, you can include fruits, vegetables, and vertebrate chunks in their diet.

5. Bluetail Mole Skink

Bluetail Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius lividus) in light sand near Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park, Florida, USA
A Bluetail Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius lividus) in light sand near Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon egregius lividus
  • Other Names: Mole Skink
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: 5 to 7 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Bluetail mole skinks are a threatened species in the United States. It is illegal to purchase or take one out of the wild without a permit. Like most threatened skink species, the main threat faced by bluetail mole skinks is habitat loss.

This skink species has a brown body and a long, blue tail half its body length. In adults, the tail may turn orange or pinkish. Bluetail skinks that lose their tail regrow a pinkish one.

These lizards love to burrow into the sand. That is why they favor habitats with sandy substrates and high pine or scrubs. These good sand swimmers also have features adapted to living underground. They only use their small limbs when moving on the surface.

Bluetail skinks forage on the soil surface even though they spend a lot of time in the ground. You can find this skink eating roaches, cricket, and spiders.

6. Cedar Key Mole Skink

Cedar Key Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius insularis) in light sand off Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, Cedar Key, Florida, USA
A Cedar Key Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius insularis) in light sand off Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, Cedar Key, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon egregius insularis
  • Other Names: Mole Skink
  • Adult Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: N/A
  • Average Price Range: N/A 

This skink gets its name from the Cedar Keys islands, from where it originates. You cannot find it anywhere else in the world. The Cedar Key mole skink is so rare you will find it hard to come across one in the wild even when you go looking.

This subspecies of mole skink has the smallest distribution among lizards native to Florida. That is why ecologists have been pushing to get it listed under the US Endangered Species Act for years. The species is protected in Florida, so it is difficult to legally own one.

Little is known about the day-to-day lives of these skinks beyond the basics. They have brown skins, smooth scales, and polished skin. They have orange tails and a light stripe running along their sides.

You can find Cedar Key mole skinks living in scrubs and sandhills close to shorelines. These skinks tend to burrow into the ground and hide under debris.

These lizards are not too picky about what they eat. Their primary diet consists of small insects like flies and beetle. They also eat crustaceans like crabs.

7. Florida Keys Mole Skink

Florida Keys Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius egregius) on a sandy leaf off Duck Key, Monroe County, Florida, USA
A Florida Keys Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius egregius) on a sandy leaf off Duck Key, Monroe County, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon egregius egregius
  • Other Names: Mole Skink
  • Adult Size: 3 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: N/A
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Florida Keys mole skinks have two or more colored stripes running from their heads down their bodies. They generally have brown skins and pink to red tails. They have small, well-developed legs with five toes each.

Like most mole skinks in Florida, this subspecies is state-protected. If you want to get one legally, you must apply for a permit. Unfortunately, since their population is declining, you are unlikely to get approved.

Florid Keys mole skinks are native to the Florida Keys. They are secretive lizards that live in sandy areas and spend much time under rocks, washed up sea debris, and leaf litter. These lizards rarely climb.

This species mainly eats arthropods like spiders, crickets, and roaches.

8. Peninsula Mole Skink

Peninsula Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius onocrepis) on textured white concrete somewhere on Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA
A Peninsula Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius onocrepis) on textured white concrete somewhere on Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon egregius onocrepis
  • Other Names: Mole Skink
  • Adult Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: N/A
  • Average Price Range: N/A 

Little is known about this secretive mole skink. You can find it under debris and in sandy areas where it sometimes basks on loose sand. This Florida native often stays out of sight and feeds on insects and other small arthropods.

This lizard has a brown-black body and a long, orange tail. The middle of the tail may have a blue to purple region. Light brown to yellow stripes run from the nose, over each eye, and down its sides. These stripes typically disappear in the first half of the body’s length.

Peninsula skinks are a protected species in Florida. Therefore, if you come across one in the wild, it is best to leave it alone.

9. Northern Mole Skink

Northern Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius similis) in sand among some leaves and straw by Lafayette Blue Springs State Park, Florida, USA
A Northern Mole Skink (Plestiodon egregius similis) in sand among some leaves and straw by Lafayette Blue Springs State Park, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon egregius similis
  • Other Names: Mole Skink
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 6 inches
  • Lifespan: N/A
  • Average Price Range: N/A 

Northern mole skinks are one of the most poorly understood skinks in Florida. They are an elusive species with sightings few and far between.

Unlike ground skinks that favor moist habitats, you can find these skinks in dry, sandy, or rocky areas. This species loves to burrow into well-drained sand, but it is not a sand swimmer.

Its skin is between gray, black, and brown, while its tails are long and orange or reddish-brown. Young northern mole skinks are more colorful than adults.

This lizard’s primary diet consists of spiders and insects, but it is not rare to find it eating tiny vertebrates.

10. Common Five-lined Skink

Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) on rocky sand at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA
A Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) on rocky sand at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon fasciatus
  • Other Names: American Five-lined Skink, Blue-tailed Skink, Red-headed Skink
  • Adult Size: 5 to 8.5 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Also called American five-lined skinks, these lizards are widely distributed in Florida and North America. They have shiny brown skins with five stripe patterns and are closely related to Southeastern five-lined skinks.

You may hear people call them blue-tailed or red-headed skinks. Juveniles have blue tails, while adult males develop orange heads during breeding seasons.

Many skinks abandon their eggs immediately after laying, but female five-lined skinks do not. Instead, they show great parental care by guarding their eggs until they hatch.

American five-lined skinks make good pets and are easy to care for in captivity. You can feed them with spiders and insects like roaches and ants. They can also eat small vertebrates like mice and fruit or vegetable servings.

Keep these skinks in moist, wooded enclosures similar to their natural habitats. These skinks love to climb and bask in the sun, so make sure to put branches in their enclosure.

While these skinks are relatively easy to tame, be mindful that they bite if they feel threatened.

11. Southern Coal Skink

Southern Coal Skink (Plestiodon anthracinus pluvialis) in grass at Blackwater River State Forest, Florida, USA
A Southern Coal Skink (Plestiodon anthracinus pluvialis) in grass at Blackwater River State Forest, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon anthracinus pluvialis
  • Other Names: Coal skink
  • Adult Size: 5 to 7 inches
  • Lifespan: N/A
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Southern coal skinks are shy lizards with shiny, brown, or black skins. These lizards have broad, dark lateral stripes that span about four scales.

They also have thin light lines bordering these broad stripes on both sides. Coal skinks are born black with light lines running down their sides and back.

Coal skinks have four light lines extending from their bodies to their tails. No light lines on the head of this lizard. Adult males develop an orange tint on their heads during the breeding season.

Coal skinks are a secretive species. You can find these skinks in rocky, wet areas with logs or leaf litter and along stream edges. They love to bask in the sun but often take shelter from humans by diving into streams or under rocks and logs.

These lizards feed on small insects and other types of arthropods.

12. Ocellated Skink

Ocellated Bronze Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) on someone's hand by grass and leaves near Mount Carmel National Park, Ramot Menashe, Israel
An Ocellated Bronze Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) on someone’s hand by grass and leaves near Mount Carmel National Park, Ramot Menashe, Israel. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Chalcides ocellatus
  • Other Names: Ocellated Bronze Skink, Eyed Skink
  • Adult Size: 6 to 12 inches
  • Lifespan: 10 to 14 years
  • Average Price Range: About $30

Ocellated skinks get their name from the white spots scattered on their skin. These white spots are surrounded by black rings and resemble tiny eyes (ocelli). The back of this skink has a wide range of possible coloration patterns.

These skinks have white bellies and are native to Malta, Greece, and Africa, but have now established themselves in Florida. They entered Florida through the pet trade.

Unlike regular skinks in Florida that prefer moist environments, these skinks are comfortable in arid areas. As a result, you can find this ubiquitous species in several habitats, from forests to deserts.

Ocellated skinks have smooth scales and can move freely in loose sand by undulating their bodies, but they are not true sand swimmers.

These species are easy to take care of because they do not require much, but they are not very fond of handling.

You can feed this skink with arthropods like beetles, crickets, spiders, and grasshoppers. It also eats small reptiles. When feeding this skink, try making the insects smaller than their heads.

You can toss live prey into these skinks’ enclosures once in a while. They have active, predatory personalities that are fun to watch.

13. African Five-lined Skink

African Five-lined Skink (Trachylepis quinquetaeniata) among rocks at Indian River Estates, Florida, USA
An African Five-lined Skink (Trachylepis quinquetaeniata) among rocks at Indian River Estates, Florida, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: N/A
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Trachylepis quinquetaeniata
  • Other Names: Five-lined Mabuya, Rainbow Mabuya, Rainbow Skink, African Blue-tailed Skink
  • Adult Size: 4 to 8 inches
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $7.50-$20

The African five-lined skink or Rainbow Mabuya got into Florida through the pet trade. It was first observed in 2010, but it has become an established species in Florida.

The color of this reptile varies with sex and age. Its glossy skin is usually olive or dark brown with whitish spots. It has a white belly and five pale dorsolateral lines running from its head to its blue tail.

In adults, the lines and coloration may become less pronounced.

You can feed this lizard with crickets and other small insects. But it is a good idea to occasionally add small amounts of fruits and vegetables to its diet. This skink is a climber, so make sure its enclosure has spots it can climb.

14. Many-lined Sun Skink

Many-lined Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciata) on a wet log near Bulusan Volcano, Sorsogon, Philippines
A Many-lined Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciata) on a wet log near Bulusan Volcano, Sorsogon, Philippines. – Source
  • Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Family: Scincidae
  • Scientific Name: Eutropis multifasciata
  • Other Names: Many-striped Skink, East Indian Brown Mabuya, Common Sun Skink
  • Adult Size: 7 to 9 inches
  • Lifespan: 6 to 8 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The many-striped sun skink is an established invasive species in Florida. It came into Florida through cargo but is native to parts of Asia. This lizard is different from many species in Florida because it gives birth to its young alive.

You can identify this skink by its yellow or white throat and the five to seven dark stripes on its body. The back of this species is brown and its sides vary from red-orange to olive-brown. You can see three raised ridges on its back if you look closely.

Some people keep this species as a pet in the US because it is relatively cheap and sturdy. You can keep them in medium-sized tanks with moist substrates and UV lighting. These skinks bite, so be careful when handling them.

You can feed this skink with crickets, roaches, and mealworms.

Wrapping up

Florida is home to several skink species, each different from the next. Understanding these differences can help you correctly identify them when you are out herping. This knowledge is equally valuable when sorting through potential pets.

Although many skinks in Florida make great pets, you cannot purchase all of them legally. Many species in Florida are vulnerable and state-protected. If you are planning to get a pet skink, make sure to check its conservation status first to avoid breaking the law.

Please only get skinks from approved pet sellers. By taking them out of the wild, you contribute to their decline and disrupt the ecosystem. If you have solid reasons for purchasing a protected species, you must obtain a permit.

Whatever your reasons for being interested in Florida skinks, we hope you find this list valuable.

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