Lizards in the Hurons: Five-lined Skink Range Extension Documented

11 July 2015 – Huron Mountains, along on the Marquette-Baraga county line.

During a reconnaissance mission to look at a potential conservation easement, we had some interesting encounters. The most exciting was the discovery of a population of five-lined skinks.











Ryne Rutherford, a professional field biologist and co-founder of Biophilia Nature LLC, who lead the search for the skinks, summarized the discovery this way:

 In addition to being the first  five-lined skink documented for Baraga County, the skink population on … is the northwestern most record in the species entire range. It also represents a small range extension westward from know localities in the Huron Mountain Club. Five-lined skinks range throughout eastern North America where they are obligate forest dwellers in the south and central part of its range. At the northern extreme of their range in northern Marquette and Baraga Counties colonies of five-lined skinks are restricted to open granite bedrock outcrops and adjacent openings within a few miles of Lake Superior where  the climate is locally moderated and south facing rock exposures provide the necessary warmth for them to persist.” 


Granite bald skink habitat.











Huron Islands in Lake Superior from the study area.










The skinks were hard to catch, but a garter snake was so preoccupied with trying to swallow a toad that we could take close-up photos.












The granite balds are also home to an interesting community of plants, unlike the usual parts of the northern forest.


Black trumpet or horn-of-plenty. A choice edible mushroom that is symbiotic with oak trees.

2 Responses to “Lizards in the Hurons: Five-lined Skink Range Extension Documented”

  1. Joe Says:

    That’s some interesting things your seeing out there. Make’s one take a closer look when hiking.

  2. Matt Tuynman Says:

    Looks like your scouting took you to Michigan’s lost Shangri La. A little more then ten years ago Plum Creek owned sections 21,22,27 and 28 of T.52N.-R.29W. HMC purchased sections 22 and 27(MT. Benison), in February 2009 and payed out of the CFA on the land in July of 2009. Sections 21 and 28 remained under Plum Creek, then around 2012 the DNR showed those two sections as being acquired by them. I personally made the case for the DNR’s acquisition of those sections to a DNR chief, before State Senator Casperson’s legislation restricting the acquisition of land by the DNR, was passed. I dont know if I had any bearing on this land, or if it was already on the radar. I have an AAS in Forestry from Tech (95) and am about to earn one in Environmental Science from Schoolcraft college, but more than anything I have a passion for the land. The public land of the Little Huron tract, MT. Superior, Ravens Nest and the Tick’s are gems of the highest priority when it comes to conservation of public land in Michigan. Their biodiversity, niche ecosystem, ruggedness and scenery are unrivalled in the Midwest when it comes to land with the potential of being conserved, for public access. The testament of their uniqueness lie in their geologic extensions three miles out in Lake Superior. The Huron Islands NWR and Wilderness has been protected since 1905 and were set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt himself.
    If this land makes it to a conservation action plan, feel free to contact me if volunteers or insight are needed.

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