Unusual reptile visits WDC science classroom
Wadena resident Steve Schmitz brought in a five-lined skink he captured on his farm to WDC’s sixth-grade science class Thursday – a little reptile the majority of the youngsters had never seen before.
Imagine a gardener snake with legs. That’s how some would describe this little, elusive creature that is about eight inches long. Schmitz cornered the skink on his farm by Wadena and then carefully put the skink in a large plexi-glass terrarium filled with black dirt, a little water, green plants and other bits of cover.
Schmitz called WDC Middle/High School to see if any science teacher was interested in housing this little guy for a couple of days so students could learn more about “Dave.” (What Schmitz named this adult skink.)
“I thought it would be a great way for kids to learn about skinks. You don’t see them too often. Most of the time, people mistake them for a mouse or a snake scooting by,” Schmitz said.
WDC Sixth-Grade Teacher Lori Grendahl, who enjoys exposing her science students to all kinds of animals and their habitats and behaviors, welcomed the opportunity to keep Dave for a day or two. While visiting Grendahl’s science classroom, Schmitz answered questions from students about where did he find the skink, what does he eat, does he bite and the most interesting fact about skinks – they lose their tails if threatened by a predator.
As students were leaving for their next class, Grendahl asked how many students could bring in grasshoppers and crickets tomorrow in Ziploc bags for Dave to munch on. The majority of the class quickly raised their hands up high, eager to bring Dave insects to dine on!
Schmitz said he will release Dave back into the woods.
Oh, my, the stories Dave will have to tell his skink family about his adventures at WDC Middle/High School!
More information about five-lined skinks:
• These lizards are found in moist woods where there are a lot of logs, stumps, and rock piles to go along with leaf litter.
• They grow up to eight inches long, with males growing slightly larger than females.
• Five-lined Skinks are diurnal, so they are active during the day. They like to crawl out on rocks or logs to bask (soak up heat from the sun) during the day.
• They are also always looking for a meal. Five-lined Skinks eat mostly insects, including: crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, and caterpillars. They also eat spiders, earthworms, snails, slugs, isopods, other lizards, and small mice.
• Five-lined Skinks will often climb dead trees where there are a lot of insects.
• Predators of these lizards include raccoons, foxes, snakes, and hawks.
• The five-lined skink may live up to 6 years of age.
• Interesting fact: Common five-lined skinks easily lose their tail to predators, with the detached tail continuing to wiggle, to distract the predator. The tail does re-grow over time, but it is not as long or colorful as the original.
Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2010. Snakes and Lizards of Minnesota. Nongame Wildlife Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, Minnesota. 67 pp.