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Do Skinks Bite?

by Lucy

Many reptile lovers tend to look for easily managed pets, such as bearded dragons or ball pythons. However, the one reptile that has gained considerable popularity in recent years is the skink. 

For those who may not know, skinks are a species from the lizard family. They can significantly vary in size depending on the species. Smaller skinks are usually around three inches, while the larger breeds, such as blue tongues, can measure up to a foot long or even fourteen inches long.

When considering keeping a reptile that grows to such a large size, it’s natural to wonder:

Do skinks bite? Yes skinks can bite, and they have tiny sharp teeth. However, skinks are not aggressive and will only bite out of fear or annoyance. These bites aren’t usually hard enough to cause much more damage than a few small cuts, but always make sure to wash and disinfect the wound.

Even when a large-sized skink bites, it likely won’t manage to do more than scrape your skin a bit and draw a few drops of blood. These lizards do not carry any venom and aren’t toxic in any way. So, they pose no threat to humans.

Let’s talk a bit more about what might cause your usually cheery skink to bite you.

Do Skinks Bite?

Most skinks, despite their size, are mild-tempered. If you take a closer look at their anatomy, you’ll see that these adorable creatures don’t have very sharp claws, nails, or powerful limbs that can be used as a tool for injury or harm. The only weapon that Nature has deemed fit to provide them are sharp teeth. 

Skinks have pleurodont teeth, which means that they are fused with their jaws. They have about 40 sharp but tiny teeth that they usually use to catch and munch on their prey, such as crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. A skink will only use their teeth to bite when fearing for their life.

If you were to monitor the behavior of a skink, particularly smaller-sized ones, you would see that they are the type to avoid confrontation. When faced with a predator or a stressful situation, skinks run in the opposite direction. Most skinks even tend to lay their eggs under foliage, and those that give birth keep their young well hidden under tunnels in sand or mud.

And skinks like to dig and bury themselves underground where they can hide from predators such as raccoons, foxes, snakes, or hawks. Some skinks are arboreal, or tree-dwelling. So, their overall standard behavior is to bask in the sun and have some fun. They love to keep away from tense or trying environments.

In short, your skink does have the capacity to bite, but it will only attempt to do so if you push their buttons.

When Do Skinks Bite?

You must realize that all lizards and that even the majority of reptiles have the potential to bite. However, your skink will not bite you out of the blue, and if they have bitten you, then it must have been provoked, even by accident. Furthermore, there are always signs that you can look out for to see when your skink is not in the mood to mess around.

Skinks may bite for the following reasons:

  • Overhandling – Skinks are famous for being among the few reptilian pets that don’t mind being handled. But, even your skink has their limits. If you aren’t gentle or are constantly handling your pet, then they may revert to biting after you have ignored all the signs your skink has given you to leave them alone.
  • Things Touching Their Mouths – If you’re trying to get a look at your skink’s tongue or teeth and try to insert your finger in their mouth, be prepared for a bite. Skinks will also try to bite (thinking your finger is prey) if you accidentally touch their mouth. Their biting instincts go into overdrive when their mouth is touched, even by accident.
  • Hunger – Skinks tend to bite if they are hungry. It is perhaps one of the reasons that many pet parents are advised to keep babies away from skinks, particularly their tiny fingers and toes. Your skink might mistake those little fingers as insects or small animals that will provide sustenance and nutrition.
  • Nervousness Or Stress– If you’ve just adopted a skink, then they will be under a bit of a stress until they settle down in their new home. If there are other pets in the house that may loom over your pet skink from outside their enclosure, then your skink might feel threatened. There are even times when skinks feel threatened by their owners due to mishandling, overhandling, or mistreatment. If your skink is nervous and you don’t give them some space, they will eventually bite you.
  • They Are Unwell – There is also the possibility that your lizard may try to take a nip at you when they are feeling under the weather. In the wild, skinks take to hiding and staying away from the view of predators or almost anyone else when they aren’t doing so well. So, if they are ill, you should head straight to the vet instead of trying to coddle them.

How Can You Tell Your Skink Is About To Bite?

As mentioned earlier, skinks don’t particularly enjoy biting. So, it is relatively easy to tell in advance when your reptile is about to lose their cool and nip at you. There are always signals or signs that will alert you to your pet’s aggressive mood. 

  • Hissing – Most lizards hiss when they are in an aggressive mood. So, if your pet skink is hissing, then you need to step away from them and give them time to cool down.
  • Flattening Their Body – When your skink has lowered their body closer to the ground and is attempting to make themselves appear larger and more threatening, you should back off. This is a clear indication of a stressed or threatened lizard.
  • Puffing Up – Another common strategy that reptiles, particularly lizards, use to deter predators is to puff themselves up to appear larger. Usually, the bigger the prey, the more of a challenge they represent to kill. Lizards try to make themselves look larger so that the predator will back off.
  • Opening Up Wide– If your skink looks in your direction and opens their mouth up wide, then you have to take a step back. Such an action is a very threatening stance from lizards, often associated with other signs such as hissing and closely tracking your movements.
  • Flicking Their Tongue – The blue-tongued skink is one of few skinks that love to flick their tongue when they are in a bad mood, and they want you to know that they need some time alone. 

How To Avoid Getting Bitten

First of all, it’s always important to properly socialize your reptile if you plan on handling them. This means gently handling them on a regular basis, but only in short bursts. Your skink should get plenty of time alone, but also enough peaceful time with you to get used to your presence and create a positive association with being around you.

Fortunately, skinks belong to a sect of reptiles that aren’t flighty, aggressive, or venomous. They simply like nothing better than lazing about in the sun. So, if you can clearly hear your skink hissing at you or even generally looking angry or lethargic, then it is better to allow your pet to relax a bit on their own. 

Mammals may appreciate hugs and cuddles, but when reptiles, particularly lizards, are under stress, they like to go and seek out places to hide alone. Most places that skinks like to hide are dark, cool, and free of other life.

Therefore, the best thing you can do for your pet when they seem to be in an aggressive mood is to leave them alone long enough to calm down.

However, if you are fearful that your 3-inch skink will bite your arm off, buy a good pair of gloves. Some skink parents invest in a pair of falconry gloves to prevent any injury from their pet’s bite if they need to clean their tank during a rare aggressive day. But, if you have a smaller species of skink at home, then regular gardening gloves will serve you just as well. 

For some tips on taming a skink, check out this awesome video from the Reptilian Garden channel on YouTube!

Final Thoughts

Adopting a pet as unique and interesting as a skink can be both fun and fascinating. These creatures are friendly and love to explore, so you’ll have a great time watching and observing them. These reptiles are also hardy animals that require little of your time in terms of attention or maintenance.

You will often find pet guardians fawning over their skinks the same way owners of canines or felines adore their fluffy friends.

Despite the love these animals receive from animal enthusiasts the world over, there are still a lot of rumors connected to reptiles in general. But, you should know that skinks are low-risk, docile pets. Once you bring home a skink and learn to care for one, you’ll find it very easy to fall in love with them too.

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