Handling Tips

Blue tongue skinks are extraordinarily curious lizards that get bored easily, with above average needs for mental as well as physical exercise. Taming and regular handling can help fulfill that need for stimulation while also teaching the skink to feel secure in your presence. To help you handle your pet most effectively I have also included a brief guide to blue tongue skink body language in this chapter.


Taming

Be aware that wild caught blue tongue skinks get stressed more easily in captivity, making them difficult to handle, defensive, and occasionally aggressive. Completely taming wild caught individuals can be difficult, and even impossible.

Captive bred blue tongue skinks, by contrast, are already accustomed to humans. They have also experienced the effects of domestication, which creates tamer individuals through generations of captive breeding. Northern blue tongue skinks, the most popular blue tongue species in the United States, are an excellent example.

One approach to taming is talking to your skink. It sounds a little silly, but this can be especially handy while they are young and defensive. Blue tongue skinks naturally seek eye contact, and they will listen to and remember the sound of your voice.

After the skink feels more comfortable around you, try placing it on the floor with you in a closed room with no hiding places. Then read a book or do some other quiet activity. Your pet may rush off at first to find a hiding place. Be patient, and eventually the skink will come to you at its own pace. Depending on the individual, this could take several tries. Don’t give up! 

Handling

Blue tongue skinks are hefty little sausages of joy, so when you handle yours, take care to support its whole body across your forearm, including the tail. Skinks are defensive and quick to hide, so avoid loud noises or sudden movements. Keeping one of your hands visible can help your pet feel more secure.

If you wish to pet him/her, good places to start are the neck, back, and chin. Avoid touching the top of your bluey’s head, though, as they have a shadow-sensitive “third eye” there.

Eventually your skink will start to squirm and scratch to escape. You can increase his/her tolerance for handling by only taking it out for 5 minutes a day at first. When s/he sits still in your arms, increase handling time by 1 minute. Repeat the process until the skink sits still for at least 15 minutes.

Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after each handling session.

Body Language

  • Short snorting/huffing: Annoyance
  • Tail flicking/wagging: Irritation/anger
  • Long huffs/hisses + body tilt/puffing = Aggression
  • Displaying mouth and tongue: Defense reflex –> “Back off!” 

A happy skink walks casually, flicking its tongue and occasionally looking at you. A nervous skink will move in short, quick bursts, with periods of extreme stillness.

Next page: Common Illnesses and Health Problems