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What Is a Broad-Headed Skink?

By Angie Bates
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A broad-headed skink is a type of thick-bodied lizard native to much of the southeastern and central United States. Often thought poisonous, and colloquially known as scorpions, these skinks are harmless to humans and are actually beneficial for pest control. The scientific name for the broad-headed skink is Eumeces laticeps.

With short legs; long, thin tails; and tube-like bodies often blending seamlessly with their heads, these lizards tend to resemble snakes with legs. Generally, the male's head is larger than the female's, with jaws jutting out from the body to form a triangular shape. The male's head is reddish orange, and its body has a solid, olive to tan coloring. Females lack the differently colored heads of males and retain the faint yellow-white stripes that juvenile lizards possess. As the largest skink in its region, and the second largest lizard, these reptiles can reach 13 inches (33 cm) long.

Arboreal, broad-headed skinks spend most of their time in trees, though they can be found on the ground from time to time. They are most commonly found in wooded areas and seem particularly fond of oak trees. These skinks range from Florida north through Pennsylvania. They also span west to parts of Texas and Kansas, and east through Georgia.

Diurnal, these lizards are active during the daylight hours. As with most lizards, broad-headed skinks can break off their tails when threatened or captured by predators. Although the males are territorial and may fight amongst themselves, they have no part in protecting eggs during breeding seasons.

Eggs are laid in early spring under ground litter or fallen trees. Clutches usually have between eight and 12 eggs, but may have up to 22. The female guards the eggs, wrapping herself around them while they incubate. Eggs usually hatch between June and August.

Hatchlings are 2.5–3.5 inches (6.35–8.9 cm) long. Their dark bodies have five bright yellow-white stripes running vertically down their length. The skinks' tails are a vivid blue. A juvenile broad-headed skink may be mistaken for a five-lined or southeastern five-lined skink, which have similar appearances. The broad-headed skink, however, can be positively identified by the underside of its tail, which has several overlarge scales.

Beneficial in pest control, the broad-headed skink eats large quantities of food in any given day. Its main food sources are insects and spiders, but it occasionally may eat other lizards or small mammals. Usually it will hunt for food in the trees in which it lives and is known to shake wasp nests to reach the larvae inside.

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Discussion Comments
By indigomoth — On Jun 09, 2013

@clintflint - They aren't really a bright green, more of a khaki green and I don't know if people do keep them as pets.

You need to be careful about getting animals out of the wild in the United States for pets or any other reason, as there are all kinds of rules and regulations surrounding them. I know they can be strict to the point where you can't even rescue some kinds of birds by nursing them at home because you might get a large fine for "keeping" them.

It's always much kinder to go to a reputable breeder who knows what they are doing rather than try to contain something that was born in the wild anyway.

By clintflint — On Jun 08, 2013

@Iluviaporos - I wonder if people think they are venomous because they are fairly brightly colored for a lizard (with an orange head and a green body and a bright blue tail).

I remember when I was living in Florida I was quite keen to spot one and never managed it, although they're supposed to be fairly common. I don't know if people keep them as pets, but they'd probably be quite good in a terrarium if you made sure it contained the right sort of habitat.

By lluviaporos — On Jun 07, 2013

The thing to remember is that there are only two kinds of venomous lizards in the world and they are both very rare and bizarre looking. The only other kinds of lizards you might want to avoid are the very big ones, since they could attack you in the same way a dog could.

I mean, I think everyone should just generally respect nature and shouldn't try to touch animals like these skinks if they are seen in the wild, but there's no need to fear them. They aren't going to hurt you.

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