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Sand Skink Monitoring Tracks Species Activity

Published on Mar 29, 2021

While you're out hiking one of Polk's Environmental Lands properties and see squares of plywood laying on the ground, don’t worry, no one littered. It's just sand skink monitoring season.

This rare, sand-swimming reptile is particular to Polk County's eastern side, along the sandy hills of the Lake Wales Ridge system. The small skinks, which are rarely seen above ground, are a slender, gray-to-light brown lizard that has shiny scales and is about five inches long.

They also include a wedged shape nose, small eyes and have no external ear openings. They feed on ant lions, spiders, beetle larvae and termites.

So, if they are rarely seen above ground, how is it that we monitor them?

That's where the plywood boards come in handy.

The skinks, when swimming through the sand, leave waving tracks. The boards help preserve those tracks so their presence can be identified each week during the monitoring season in March and April, which is their most active time during the year. It also happens to be their breeding season. The skinks are listed as a federally threatened species and can be found in rosemary scrub, scrubby flatwoods, sand pine, oak scrubs and turkey oak ridge habitats, according the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

As part of its mission, Polk County's Environmental Lands program monitors and tracks the movement and activity of the sand skinks on the properties it manages, which includes Crooked Lake Prairie, Crooked Lake Sandhill, Crooked Lake West and the Hickory Lake Scrub.