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A POISONOUS SNAKE IN MY BACKYARD?

At this time of the year, we Georgians are spending a lot of time in our yards.  As such, homeowners and their families are more likely to encounter a snake now than at any other time of the year.  Whenever somebody does run across a snake, the first question that often comes to mind is, “Is this reptile poisonous?

       According to John Jensen, senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section and one of the state’s leading authorities on snakes, “Only every once in a while is it a venomous snake.”

       It seems that only six of the 46 species of Georgia’s of native snakes are poisonous.  The vast majority of the Peach State’s snakes are not a threat to humans.  However, far too often, harmless snakes are needlessly persecuted.  This is unfortunate because snakes are valued members of the wildlife communities that live in our yards.

       One way that you can alleviate your fears that you have encountered a poisonous snake is to learn how to identify them.  Since you only have to learn to identify six snakes, this is an easy task. 

       The Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section has prepared two publications that make identifying Georgia’s poisonous snakes a snap.  These full color pamphlets are entitled, “Venomous Snakes of Georgia” and “Is it a Water Moccasin?”.  Both publications can be downloaded by visiting the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Section website at www.georgiawildlife.org/georgiasnakes.

 

FIVE-LINED & SOUTHEASTERN FIVE-LINED SKINKS

SKINK, SE OR 5-LINED

ADULT

Recently when I moved a dog house in my backyard I uncovered either an adult five-lined (Eumecus fasciatus) or southeastern five-lined (E. inexpectatus) skink.  I wasn’t sure which one I had disturbed because both are found in my neck of the woods, and the lizard scampered away before I could closely examine it.

Juvenile

JUVENILE

The five-lined skink ranges across the entire Peach State. However, the southeastern five-lined skink’s known distribution is slightly smaller than that of the five-lined skink. The southeastern five-lined skink has not been verified living in the extreme northwestern corner of the state as well as in a broad band of counties roughly ranging from the eastern portion of Murray County south to Pickens County eastward through portions of Dawson, Lumpkin, White and Habersham Counties.

If you want to tell the difference between the five-line and southeastern five-lined skink, you are going to have to capture one. However, I should warn you that, if you try to nab one of these critters, it will most likely try to bite. If it is able to latch on to a finger, the critter will not break your skin.

Once you have the lizard in your grasp, flip it over and take a look at the scales covering the underside of its tail.  If they are all approximately the same size, you are holding a southeastern five-lined skink.  On the hand, if the scales running down the center of the tail are much larger than the nearby scales, you are looking at a five-lined skink.

Southeastern five-lined skinks are slightly longer (5.5-8.4 in) than the five lined skink (4.9-8.4 in).

The juveniles of both species have 5 light stripes that run down the length of their bodies. The middle stripe on the southeastern five-lined skink is often thinner than the other lines.

The tails of these young skinks is bright blue.

As these skinks age they gradually lose their stripes  the blue coloring on their tails. In addition, their body colors will become brown to tan. Older female five-lined skinks will sport gray tails, On the other hand the backs of adult male southeastern skinks take on a bronze or brown appearance while their sides will be blackish.

Skinks are commonly found in yards where they can find leaf piles, fallen limbs, logs rocks, and boards. Five-lined skinks prefer moist areas more so than southeastern five-lined skinks.

Skinks devour a variety of small animals such as worms, insects, and spiders.