News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Skink is our friend, but can't stay overnight

Inside her home, a woman stands in horror, looking down at a lizard tail. If the tail is here, where is the rest of the reptile?

The voice on the other end of the line sounded like an actress from a Godzilla movie.

Yet, it held a certain familiarity.

"Why am I talking to an actress from a Godzilla movie?" I thought, as the voice screamed something about a huge lizard running loose in the house.

"Jenny?" I said, thinking this might be my wife.

"Yes?" she answered.

"Calm down."

She drew a breath and told me she was standing on the bed because it was not safe to step onto the floor. She had found the front end of the lizard and it was alive and well. We might have to sell our house and move, she said.

I talked her down. Told her where to find the long-handled crab net from the last beach trip. Told her to enlist the children to help her catch the critter. Make a game of it, I suggested.

Before she left on her mission, however, she described the reptile in greater detail so I could determine what we were dealing with.

It's huge, she said again. Greenish brown. Wide head. Missing tail. Nastiest thing she has ever seen.

I hung up and quickly researched Alabama lizards on the Internet before calling her back.

Don't worry, I assured Jenny. It's a broad-headed skink. Eumeces laticeps. It's our friend. It helps get rid of pests. Its bite is harmless, like a pinch.

"But," I added, "maybe you better catch it because it can lay eight to 12 eggs."

A long silence ensued, which I intuitively linked to the part about the eight to 12 eggs.

Then, more screams broke the silence. She said she had to go and hung up.

A short time later, my phone rang.

I heard the children laughing and talking with excitement in the background as a relieved Jenny described the capture.

The skink had darted out from cover and a member of the household had put the crab net over it. Then they placed books on top of the net to secure it over the creature.

Jenny didn't want to take any chances on escape, so she called her nephew Josh to drive three miles to our house. Josh took the skink outdoors, which, all things considered, is a more hospitable environment for reptiles.

We figure the skink gained access after we removed the baseboards for a home-improvement project.

We are now motivated to reinstall the baseboards as quickly as possible.

Scott Morris is managing editor.

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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