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Sought newsgroup help Sean-- gentle sweeping
View responses critically Brian -- angry at first
Encyclopedia Britannica article Mark - nice shootin'
Ted -- nothing to fear Me -- explanation hoping for understanding
John, the entomologist Reason for website
Allen -- put outside Mark again -- keeps dangerous pets
Harry -- sarcastic congratulations Monica returns -- with hissing cockroaches
Karrin -- save money on exterminator Francesco -- scholarly identification
Monica -- salamander photo Robin -- exterminator's poem
  The Sparks -- resorts to pitchfork

I went to four Internet newsgroups, and posted a message requesting the viewers check out the photo on my website to help me identify the strange creature. The four newsgroups were: 

alt.pets.reptiles.lizards
alt.pets.reptiles.lizards.iguana
sci.bio.herp
sci.bio.entomology.misc

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Below are selected replies along with my italicized responses. I took the liberty of adding links to some of the responses. Please keep in mind that I know practically nothing about lizards -- only what I have learned from responses to my webpage "The Mysterious Creature Under My Refrigerator" and a few hours of research that I have done as a result of these responses.

Please view the responses with a critical eye, understanding that they may contain false information that I do not have the expertise to spot. I am especially concerned about any comments regarding whether lizards are harmful, but I do refer you to an Encyclopedia Britannica article identifying only two species as venomous: the Gila monster of the southwestern United States (Heloderma) and a close relative in Mexico, the Mexican bearded lizard (Heloderma horridum).

In ignorance, I may have killed a harmless lizard, but thanks to the Internet and the information I have received from newsgroups, I won't make the same mistake again, and perhaps through this website, I may prevent others from the same error.
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4/15/00 Ted says it's a skink. Nothing to shrink in fear about. "It's a perfectly harmless skink of some sort. They're a type of lizard. There's no need to kill them, they can't hurt you...this one especially since it's deader than a door nail." 

My response: Ted, after reading your response, I looked up skinks using a search engine. Discovered that some skinks are even pets. And I wonder what kind of skink this one is. Surely, not the kind that someone might keep as a pet? Could it be a blue-tailed mole skink? But its tail isn't blue.
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4/14/00 Got this response from John, an entomologist near Wakula Springs, Florida. "Your 'worm' is a lizard, probably a mole skink. ENTIRELY HARMLESS. In fact, it was probably eating the bugs that you PAY an exterminator to kill." John has a website -- http://www.concentric.net/~jhepler/index.html
4/14/00 From Allen: " I am not sure about the reptiles of Florida but from the short legs I would guess some kind of skink. From the size I expect it to be a baby. It is quite harmless anyway--if another shows up just pick it up (or ease it into a cup) and put it outside near some vegetation."

My response: I intend to take your advice in the future now that I know the creature is harmless.
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4/14/00 From Harry: "Congratulations, you killed a completely harmless lizard called a skink. You must feel very proud. Have the exterminator poison all areas within a quarter mile to avoid another infestation.

"There are skinks that could make you sick if you were to eat one. The only lizards on the planet that are dangerous to humans are Komodo Dragon, Gila Monster, and Mexican Bearded Lizard. The latter two you would have to pick up to put yourself in danger."

4/15/00 From Karrin: "If you hadn't killed the skink, you wouldn't need the exterminator."
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4/15/00 Monica says that she thinks what I found may have been a salamander. She suggested looking at this picture: http://gto.ncsa.uiuc.edu/pingleto/herps/images/salamanders/glutinosus2.jpg

My response: My creature looks pretty similar to your photo. But mine may be in the infant stage. But I wonder what others think. Is it a salamander or a skink? 

4/16/00 Sean responded with, "It appears to be a mole skink, Eumeces egregius, which is a wormlike (or snakelike) lizard of the southeast, very common in peninsular Florida. These lizards (and all others in Florida) are completely harmless--no need to 'exterminate' them. You will probably encounter others in the future--if you don't want them in the house, just coax them out the door with a broom. That's coax, not sweep or force."

My response: Using the search engine Dogpile, I looked up "eumeces egregius" and discovered that at least some in this species are considered protected lizards -- the ones identified as "eumeces egregius lividus." I sure learned a lot from that mysterious creature beneath my refrigerator. My one regret is that I didn't make more of an effort to capture him alive and remove him outdoors as Sean suggested. 
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4/16/00 Brian at first seemed angry that I had apparently killed a harmless lizard, but when I explained that I had acted out of ignorance rather than malice, he responded with:

Sorry I responded so strongly, I can count the number of times I've been shown a "deadly snake" only to have to explain to the person who had killed it that it was something harmless. It creates a 'knee-jerk' reaction sometimes. I could however suggest that you pick up a field guide for your local reptiles and Amphibians and in the future you can determine, before killing it, if it's dangerous or harmless. A good guide to look at is Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (East/Central North America) By Roger Conant / Joseph Collins" ISBN 0-395-90452-8. You can probably look at it at most bookstores or order it if you need it. Another thing is if you think it's dangerous, let a pro, handle it. Attacking a venomous snake, could make it turn on you. You can contact some local vets or Herp (reptile) societies in your area for snake handlers.


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4/17/00 From Mark: Nice shootin', Tex. You toasted a skink. BUY YOURSELF A FIELD GUIDE!!!

My response: I explained to Mark that I had acted out of ignorance and fear, no malice intended. And I was sorry for my mistake -- killing a harmless lizard. He answered as follows:

I'm a reptile nut who's been into snakes, lizards, frogs, spiders and the like for most of my life and saw the link to the story on one of the list servers I'm subscribed to. There are really very few things worth killing, even the venomous ones will leave you alone given half a chance. (I keep some of those, too.) Only a few have tried to taste me, usually within the first couple of days of captivity. They settle down nicely and become very docile pets. If it helps any, I've probably killed many more animals than you have in my misguided attempts to domesticate various critters over the years, skinks not the least among the dearly departed. So you're in very good company - lol! At least you put up a picture and asked about it. Some would just count themselves a great hunter and that would be the end of it. I'm subscribed to several lists that deal with snakes, lizards and the like. You may wish to go to http://www.herpkeepers.com and sign up for one just for fun. You never know, the "bug" may bite you and you'll end up another happy herper!

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My response: Mark, What a nice message, and I appreciate it. Your earlier message had made me consider deleting the website. But I thought that it might actually do some good -- end up educating some people, like me, about harmless lizards. I know I learned a lot from the responses, including yours. But when I first spotted the skink -- and I never saw such a thing before -- it really worried me. I thought it might inflict a poisonous bite on me or my family. And when it darted under the refrigerator, I couldn't stand the thought of it hiding somewhere in the house.

I even tried to move the refrigerator, but it was too heavy and wouldn't budge an inch. So I got a flashlight and spotted the lizard, but it was so far under the refrigerator that the only way I could reach it was with something long and narrow. And thus the molding.

I really did create the website originally because I was hoping someone could identify it for me. But as the responses came in, I realized that there was a valuable lesson to be learned here: I had misjudged something solely based on appearance. My ignorance and prejudice had caused me to harm an innocent, harmless creature. How similar to how we humans so often deal with one another. So I decided to keep expanding the site, hoping that others perhaps might learn the same lesson.

By the way, I just came back from the library and skimmed over a book titled Florida's Poisonous Plants, Snakes, and Insects, by Richard F. Lockey, M.D., published first in 1963 and then again in 1978. Nothing in the book about skinks. I did read the statement that "all Florida lizards are quite harmless." The book was last printed in 1978 -- so I wonder -- maybe some harmful lizards are now in Florida. Perhaps some imported dangerous lizard-pets have escaped their owners' cages and are hiding under someone's refrigerator.

In the book, I learned that some Florida insects that look innocent can be poisonous -- insects such as the Red Imported Fire Ant (solenopsis invicta), the saddleback caterpillar (Sibiine stimulea), the puss caterpillar (megalopyge opercularis), the wheel bug (Arilus cristatus). The saddleback caterpillar I understand is very attractive looking -- so beauty, it seems, can be deadly.

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Mark responded: The animal kingdom is HUGE! And beautiful. I've seldom seen an animal that I'd call ugly (though many humans fall neatly into that category). And some of the most beautiful are among the most dangerous. (Like women - lol!) Would it surprise you to know how many people keep venomous scorpions, centipedes, spiders, snakes, lizards (beaded and gila, the only venomous lizards), and fish? Venom has a certain ..... attraction. Go figure. I keep 3 copperheads, a cottonmouth, a pigmy rattler and a gaboon viper (along with an assortment of non-venomous snakes - cornsnakes, ratsnakes, kingsnakes, boas, pythons), 3 spiders, and a cat (no venom, just attitude). Never been bit by a hottie so far. (Knock on wood!)
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4/18/00 From Monica: I have a similar story to your under the fridge episode but it involves madagascar hissing cockroaches. I bought 2 females and a male to supplement as a food source for my lizards. Well, one of the females had babies (of course I didn't know this) and I had a damp paper towel that I was using temporarily to feed them water. I lifted it up and all these black bugs were on the underside, one fell off and skedaddled across the carpet, so I stepped on it and crushed it only to realize it was a baby hissing roach....I felt so bad. In fact I felt bad for 3 days. It was pure instinct and not knowing what it was and of course fear. I have now over 300 of them and have grown so attached to them that I haven't even fed any to my lizards...LOL. So it was not to be mean, it just happened but the main thing is that I learned from it.
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4/29/00 From Francesco in Italy. It is a reptile, Fam. Scincidae. In Italy there is the Genus Chalcides, the vernacular name is "luscengola".

5/4/00 Robin, the service manager of my exterminator company, not only identified the mysterious creature, but even wrote a poem about it:

Slip a skink into your sink.
Watch it wiggle and slink as you giggle and blink.

Unlike no other -- Is it a link -- to several others?
The skink doesn't wink.
But, be careful -- It may blink and lose its tail.
Before you could shriek, wink, or blink!
This is the tail -- Of a skink that ran under my sink!

My response: Robin, it ran under my refrigerator -- not my sink. But I guess it's a lot harder rhyming with refrigerator -- unless under my sink ran an alligator. But maybe that's for my next website.

8/15/07 From The Sparks. I'm all for the concept of "live and let live" but if it's freakin' out my wife and crapping on the couch, blankets, important papers, piano and the kitchen counter- it's got to go. And "coaxing" with a broom??????? Cats are coaxed with string, but when a skink sees a person wielding..well...we used a pitch fork, but that's because the broom didn't seem to whet his appetite. Nevertheless, they cant be baited into going outside to play. They're evasive, it seems, intelligently so, and elusive. As our home must be more comfortable than their natural habitat, and "shooing" them out has proven futile- what's an alternative to force?

As a side note, we were elated to find your post. We deal with -- what my wife affectionately refers to as "skanks"- on a daily basis, but since we live out in the country, we figured our situation unique.


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