General Description: The Prairie Skink is a medium-sized lizard ranging from 4–8 inches (10.2–20.3 cm) in total length, but are often shorter due to incomplete or partially regenerated tails. The overall body coloration of the Prairie Skink is tan and a series of black stripes run longitudinally along the body. On the back, two thin (sometimes faint) black stripes separate run the length of the body. Two large, bold black stripes that are separated by a thin white stripe are positioned dorsolaterally on the body. During the breeding season, males are easily differentiated from females by having orange coloration on their chin. Newly hatched individuals are often solid black with a bright blue tail. This conspicuously colored tail serves as a lure to direct predatory strikes away from the body, allowing individuals to escape. As individuals age, the black coloration fades to tan and stripes begin to appear and the blue tail fades away. Similar to the Many-lined Skink (Plestiodon multivirgatus), the Prairie Skink has smooth scales, giving it a shiny appearance.
Behavior: Prairie Skinks are insectivorous, consuming a wide variety of insects and arthropods. Individuals are secretive and often spending a majority of time in burrows or under cover objects. Additionally, Prairie Skinks often drop their tails in order to escape various predators that can be regenerated.
Reproduction: Mating typically takes place in May, with females laying 5–13 eggs (average of 9) in sandy soils. Females will stay with eggs and protect them from potential predators. Eggs typically hatch in late summer.
Habitat: The Prairie Skink typically inhabits grasslands where individuals can be found under various cover objects, including rocks, logs, and human debris. Additionally, they can be found in forested habitats along rivers.
Species Range: This species occurs throughout much of the Great Plains, from Texas north through North Dakota and Minnesota.
South Dakota Range: This species occurs in the eastern quarter of South Dakota from Nebraska to North Dakota.
South Dakota Status: This species is not listed by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Account written by Drew R. Davis