Actually I was turning compost…
I imagine it was a shock to be uncovered like that in the middle of March, but I put him back in a safe spot after taking his picture.
Lizards like this Juvenile Five Lined Skink (sounds like something from “Harry Potter” doesn’t it) are extremely beneficial and other than the single rare exception of the Gila Monster (found only in the desert South West of North America) are completely harmless to humans. That also goes for the vast majority of snakes. Please don’t kill them just because you were taught to be afraid of things with scales.
During warm weather reptile metabolisms soar and lizards and small snakes eat vast numbers of insects while doing exactly zero dammage to you or your garden. Larger snakes also eat rodents. Our most common large snakes here in central Tennessee – the king snakes – also eat other snakes including poisonous species.
Five Lined Skinks grow to about 5 or 6 inches in length and live 5 years more or less if they aren’t eaten by a hawk, other bird, or domestic cat. The females lay a clutch of eggs late in the spring in decaying organic matter (such as compost) and guard the nest until the eggs hatch. Newborns look just like the one in the picture above, but are only around 2 inches long. When they grow up they lose the blue coloration, and males turn red around the jaw and throat. In older adults the stripes will also fade away leaving a rather bland brown lizard with the glory of youth only a fond memory.
If they aren’t cold lizards in general are very hard to catch – being wary and fast. If caught, skinks can shed their tale which wiggles about distractingly while the rest of the lizard makes a break for it. If they escape with their life they will grow a new tail – although it’s usually kind of stumpy looking.
Lizards are interesting, beneficial, harmless, and usually too small to make a helping – so please leave them in peace when you find one.