lizard ontario

Here's everything you need to know about Ontario's only native lizard species

Did you know that the common five-lined skink is the only lizard species that is native to Ontario? 

The small lizards typically grow between 12.5 to 22 centimetres in length— although their tails can grow much longer than their bodies — and are black or grey in colour with five cream stripes on their backs that generally fade with age. 

During the spring breeding season, adult males also develop an orange colour around their jaws and chin. The lizards are similar in body shape to salamanders, although the latter do not have scales or claws. 

Throughout the province, the species can be found in two areas, namely the Carolinian population in southwestern Ontario and the Southern Shield population which occurs along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield from Georgian Bay to Leeds and Grenville County. 

According to the provincial government, the Carolinian population of the species is mostly found in dunes, open woods, or savannas with sandy substrates and objects under which to take cover, including logs and boards. 

On the other hand, the southern Shield population is typically found on rocky outcrops in mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, with areas with loose rocks on top of exposed bedrock being preferred as they offer both cover and warmth. 

The lizards eat a wide variety of invertebrates, including insects, spiders, and worms. On cool sunny mornings, the species can even be found basking in the sun, although they typically prefer to hide under cover. 

Unfortunately, the species faces several threats to survival and recovery, including habitat loss, human disturbance, traffic mortality, and increased predation by other wildlife. 

The Carolinian population in particular has drastically declined due to the extensive habitat loss in southwestern Ontario, where much of the natural landscape has been converted for agricultural and urban uses. 

The population of the five-lined skink is listed as Endangered, while the Southern Shield population is listed as Special Concern, under both the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007, and the federal Species at Risk Act.

The species faces threats from human disturbance activities, including removing or disturbing cover objects used by the lizards, such as logs, driftwood, and rocks. 

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