Western Skink

October 27, 2015
Heidi Rockney and Karen Wu
Western Skink on a rock

Western Skink.
Photo: Harry Thomas, 2012, wrygrass@iCloud.com

Western Skink on a rock

Western Skink.
Photo: Harry Thomas, 2012, wrygrass@iCloud.com

Name: Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus)
Order: Lizard (Squamata)
Family: Skinks (Scincidae)

What they look like

  • Western skinks are small smooth-scaled lizards with short limbs.
  • Their body is around 2 to 2.8 inches long and their bright blue tail is around 1.5 to 2 times its body length.
  • Alternating darker brown or black stripes and lighter cream or gray stripes run along the length of their body. Their underside is light-colored and has no markings.

Where they live

  • View a map of where they live.
  • Western skinks can be found in eastern Washington, Idaho, from south-central British Columbia to southern Baja California, eastwards to western Montana, eastern Utah, north-central Arizona, and southern Nevada.
  • Even though they can adapt to a wide variety of habitats, western skinks tend to live near water in dry open forests, shrub-steppe, and grassland.
  • They tend to avoid heavy brush and dense forests.

What they eat

  • Western skinks can eat a wide variety of foods, including crickets, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, spiders, and earthworms. 


  • Between June and July, females dig a nest chamber a few centimeters deep in loose moist soil.
  • They lay 2 to 6 eggs, which will hatch in late summer.

Cool Biology Facts

  • The western skink is the only lizard in Washington that has a bright blue tail, shiny smooth scales, and stripes running along the length of their body.
  • If caught by a predator, the western skink can detach its tail. The bright blue tail then moves vigorously around, distracting the predator while the skink tries to escape. The tail will eventually grow back, but oftentimes the new tail is darker and more oddly shaped than the original.


  • There are no known major threats to western skinks and they are considered “least concern” due to their adaptability to a wide range of habitats, large distribution, and large stable populations.
  • View their status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Distribution Map

Map of Western Skink distribution in Washington state. Learn more on the NatureMapping Foundation website.

Explore more of the Amphibians & Reptiles of Washington or check out All About Amphibians.

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