Common five-lined Skink
Scientific name: Plestiodon fasciatus
Cover photos credit: Wasyl Bakowsky (left), Ken Cornelisse (middle), Rob Tervo (right)
Endangered (Carolinian population)
“Endangered” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.
Special Concern (Southern Shield population)
“Special Concern” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List
September 10, 2009
What it looks like
The Common Five-lined Skink is a small (up to 8.6 cm) black or grey coloured lizard with five cream-coloured stripes along its back and a blue tail in juveniles.
The stripes and blue tail fade with age. During the breeding season, males have orange colouration around the jaws and chin. Common Five-lined Skinks feed on insects, worms and other invertebrates. They are very agile hunters.
Where it lives
Common Five-lined Skinks like to bask on sunny rocks and logs to maintain a preferred body temperature (28-36°C). During the winter, they hibernate in crevices among rocks or buried in the soil.
There are two populations of Common Five-lined Skink in Ontario and they each occupy different types of habitat.
The Southern Shield population can be found underneath rocks on open bedrock in forests. The Carolinian population can be found under woody debris in clearings with sand dunes, open forested areas, and wetlands.
Where it’s been found in Ontario
In North America, the Common Five-lined Skink occurs throughout hardwood forests from the Atlantic seaboard to Texas and Minnesota and from southern Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico.
In Canada, the species is limited to two distinct areas, along the southern margin of the Canadian Shield, and in the Carolinian Zone where it is found near the shores of Lakes Erie, St. Clair and Huron.
What threatens it
The Common Five-lined Skink faces many threats to their habitat from urban sprawl and agriculture, especially in southwestern Ontario. In the Carolinian population, woody debris that Common Five-lined Skinks use for cover may be cleared from beaches for aesthetic reasons or collected for firewood.
In the Canadian Shield population, the flipping of rocks (by humans or Black Bears) and removal of rocks for landscaping take away important skink habitat. Other threats include illegal collection for the pet trade and ATVs.
Action we are taking
Recovery strategy / Management Plan
Recovery strategies that are developed for more than one population of a species, meet the requirements for a management plan for those populations that are classified as Special Concern (e.g. Common Five-lined Skink and Lake Sturgeon).
Read the executive summary (September 10, 2010)
Read the recovery strategy (September 10, 2010)
Government response statement
A government response statement outlines the actions the government intends to take or support to help recover the species.
Read the government response statement (June 15, 2011)
Five-Year Review of Progress
A five-year review reports on progress made toward protecting and recovering a species, within five years of publishing a species’ government response statement.
Read the report on progress towards the protection and recovery of 27 species at risk, including Common Five-lined Skink (2016)
A habitat regulation defines a species' habitat and many describe features (e.g. a creek, cliff, or beach), geographic boundaries or other unique characteristics.
Read the habitat regulation (July 1, 2012)
What you can do
Report a sighting
- Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.
- Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
Be a good steward
- Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find Common five-lined-skink on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
- Never buy Common Five-lined Skinks that have been caught in the wild and never buy a native species of any kind that’s being sold as a pet.
- The Carolinian Zone of southern Ontario supports an impressive diversity of plants and wildlife, including many species at risk. Carolinian Canada Coalition is working to protect and restore the natural heritage in this important area.
- Register with the Herpetofaunal Atlas program to receive e-mail newsletters, event notifications, and other important updates about the Herpetofaunal Atlas project as it develops. Visit their website to see how you can participate and learn more about Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians.
Report illegal activity
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to
- When attacked by a potential predator, a skink’s tail can “autotomize”: spontaneously break off and thrash for several minutes, distracting the predator so the lizard can escape. The tail is able to grow back at a rate of about 6 millimetres a week.
- The scales of the Common Five-lined Skink are un-ridged, giving it a smooth, shiny appearance.