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
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
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.
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."
response: Ted, after reading your response, I looked
using a search engine. Discovered that some skinks are
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.
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
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
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.
are skinks that could make you sick if you were to eat
one. The only
lizards on the planet that are dangerous to humans
Monster, and Mexican
Bearded Lizard. The latter two you would have to
pick up to put yourself in danger."
From Karrin: "If you hadn't killed the skink, you wouldn't
need the exterminator."
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?
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."
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
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.
From Mark: Nice shootin', Tex. You toasted a skink.
BUY YOURSELF A FIELD
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!
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
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.
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
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
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.
From Francesco in Italy. It is a reptile, Fam. Scincidae.
In Italy there is the Genus Chalcides,
the vernacular name is "luscengola".
Robin, the service manager
of my exterminator company, not only identified the
mysterious creature, but even wrote a poem about it:
a skink into your sink.
no other -- Is it a link -- to several others?
Watch it wiggle and slink as you giggle and blink.
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
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
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.
©Copyright 2000 by Richard Edward
Gordon. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 10/6/00