Lots of people let their pet dogs and even cats loose out in their yards to get some sunshine, but what about blue-tongue skinks? They roam-free in their natural habitat, after all.
Can I Let My Blue-Tongue in the Yard?
Here’s the quick and easy answer:
Yes, at times you absolutely can let your blue-tongue skink in your backyard, garden or outdoor property, however it’s only a good idea IF you follow a few basic safety precautions.
Here’s the thing.
If I were a lizard, I wouldn’t want to be cooped up all day inside a confined terrarium when I could be roaming free.
I can certainly see the appeal in wanting to let your blue-tongue get some nice rays out in your backyard every now and again. In fact, I do it myself from time to time.
There are quite a lot of benefits:
- the opportunity for your blue-tongue to feel the warmth of the sun and the breeze of the wind
- a natural, but stimulating environment
There are 3 really important safety precautions that you need to ask yourself before you let your bluey out:
- is the current temperature and humidity suitable?
- are there any potential predators that I know or don’t know of on my property?
- can my blue-tongue escape or can I easily lose sight of it?
The first risk is obviously the outside temperature and humidity. Usually, the risk isn’t a temperature or humidity that is too hot, but an environment that is too cold. Remember to only take your bluey outside on days that mimic its ideal native temperature and humidity.
The second risk is a little more frightening, and is one that probably involves predators you may have not thought of.
You need to think of obvious predators to your blue-tongue, such as:
- birds of prey
But also, other animals that may not necessarily hunt your blue-tongue, but could potentially hurt it, such as:
- poisonous spiders in your area
- snakes in your area
To guard against this, make sure that the outside environment that you are bringing them to is enclosed and guarded against outside entry by predators. You should also do a thorough check of your backyard, garden or property to make sure there aren’t any areas that could be occupied by smaller animals or insects that could injure or harm your skink.
For birds of prey, you’ll just have to keep a really careful eye on your skink. I once saw a falcon NEARLY scoop up somebody’s unsuspecting chihuahua….not in some park but in the suburbs of Ohio.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that the habitat that you want to use is not something in which your blue-tongue can just disappear into.
This means that:
- open, large gardens
- yards with tall grass and lots of bushes
- yards that are full of various things that a skink can hide under
…are probably not ideal.
The two most important aspects to a good area in which to put your bluey are:
- an enclosed environment that your bluey cannot escape (as well as that ensures that predators cannot get in)
- low-cut grass or earth so that you can ALWAYS have a line of sight on your lizard
Now, I know that a lot of us don’t have easy access to the perfect, predator-free, low-cut grass, totally enclosed outdoor environment for our blue-tongue skinks, and so I know some of you may be thinking about the next question, which is…
Are There Leashes for Blue-Tongues?
Yes, there are leashes designed and available specifically for lizards, but I’ll be perfectly blunt…
…I am not impressed with them.
At least when it comes to using them on a blue-tongued skink.
There are a few leashes that are designed specially for blue-tongues. One in particular, made by T-Rex Products is probably the most well-known.
Most of these leashes work like this. They have a small “vest” of some sort that loops underneath their body and through their arms, then the “vest” is closed and tied or attached to a leash that hooks on their back. Picture one of those dog vest leashes, but this time with a lizard.
Here’s the thing about these leashes though:
- your blue-tongue is probably not going to be comfortable wearing the stupid thing
Blue-tongues aren’t like dogs. You can’t “guide” them this way and that way, and have them hop along merrily after you. They are lizards, and they often have a mind of their own.
My simple opinion is that leashes and lizards just don’t mix.
There are the physical limitations, such as the fact that blue-tongues have extremely short limbs and can often get out of them, and there are the mental hurdles as well, such as the fact that lizards often will feel agitated by wearing them.
Now, I’m not saying they don’t work for everyone, and I’m not saying that they are pointless or that you shouldn’t even try them, I’m just saying not to have high expectations for a leash should you decide to purchase one.
My stance is that a safe, enclosed outdoor area is better for them, both physically and mentally.
Can I Keep My Blue-Tongue Skink in an Outdoor Enclosure?
This really ought to be its own topic, but I do want to address it quickly here.
In an ideal world, I would say that an outdoor enclosure beats an indoor.
The thing is, is that there are often restrictions and limitations that are difficult to overcome first. This is why I am of the opinion that for most people (at least in North America and Europe), indoor habitats are going to be a lot better for their animals.
First of all, with outdoor enclosures, the same safety precautions are going to apply.
Moreover, you will need to think about a lot of other things as well:
- is the outdoor temperature and humidity suitable for your bluey for most of the year?
- how will your bluey deal with inclement weather?
- what will you do for your UV lighting?
- what will you do when the temperature drops at night?
- how will you prevent any potential predators from gaining access to the habitat?
- how will you prevent your skink from escaping?
- will it be big enough?
These are all questions that become a lot more difficult to answer, especially if you are new to blue-tongues or reptiles in general.
Basically, what I am saying is that it’s simply going to be A LOT easier if you keep your reptile in an indoor enclosure. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, because it has, successfully, and by quite a few very knowledgeable blue-tongue owners. I do want to warn you however that it isn’t necessarily easy.
Do Blue-Tongues Keep Away Snakes?
I once had someone ask me if they thought it would be a good idea to use their captive blue-tongue as a sort of “pest control” for their garden and backyard.
Basically, this person was considering letting his blue-tongue roam outside every now and again in his fenced in backyard to hunt and kill any snakes or mice.
I’ve also seen this question asked a few times elsewhere on reptile forums, which is why I want to address it here briefly.
Don’t use your blue-tongue as a pest-control device.
It’s just not a good idea.
While it is true that wild blue-tongues may hunt and kill very young snakes, the dynamic quickly changes as snakes become bigger, when blue-tongues become their prey. You can see this occur in nature here and here (warning, not for the faint of heart!).
Blue-tongues also do not have, as far as I know, any defense against a poisonous snake bite, or any real ability to outrun or out-climb them. In fact, they can’t even swim to get away!
Mice or rats, while not really a danger to blue-tongues, are simply way too fast to be caught by them.
The only real thing that you could potentially use blue-tongues as pest-control for are snails.
And honestly, are snails really such a nuisance that you need to risk danger to your blue-tongue?
The risk just really outweighs any perceived benefit here.
To sum up this article:
- you CAN let blue-tongues outside in your garden or yard, and it probably is healthy for them every once in a while
- your 3 biggest concerns are the outdoor temperature and humidity, potential predators and losing site of your animal
- unless you want to be disappointed, don’t use a lizard leash
- don’t use your blue-tongue as pest-control
- you can build and keep your bluey in an outdoor enclosure, but it will take quite a bit of work and an indoor enclosure is simply much easier for most people