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Broad-headed skinks, Eumeces laticeps

Q: I have this very large lizard with a red head in my yard, what is it?

A:  Having a photo of the lizard helped but when you said it had a very large head I suspected a skink.  It is in fact a broad headed skink.  Broad-headed skinks, Eumeces laticeps, are large (up to 13 inches in length) brown lizards.  The males have a distinctive red-orange head. The young are dark with 5 broad light stripes but their bright blue tail makes them easy to spot.   Actually the blue tail is used to distract predators.

Skinks can be a problem if fluffy, the cat, decides to eat it because it has been know to cause illness in pets.  Some people have thought the bite of the skink is poisonous but they are no threat to humans.  Their size alone is enough to scare most people but they are basically shy creatures who prefer to be left alone.  They feed on insects, spiders and even small lizards and mammals.

Female skinks lay from 8 to 12 eggs in the early spring in a rotten log or stump. Skinks will guard their eggs for a couple of months until the 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 inch long hatchlings emerge. The bright red coloration on the head signifies the breeding season where males fight savagely with rivals to defend their territory.