Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Raising a skink, or two, at CFB Shilo

Endangered lizard confounds researchers

  • Print

CFB SHILO -- Manitoba's only lizard, the endangered Prairie skink, has found a safe place to call home -- the training range at CFB Shilo.

And while the grassland at the base provides ample camouflage for the lizards, they can't escape being the subjects of crucial research into their natural habitat.

Around Onah railway station in the northern area of the range lives the most robust population of the elusive skinks, with more than 200 of them burrowing near the tracks. Throughout the base are clusters of 30 to 70 skinks.

The question plaguing researchers is what makes the area skink-friendly.

"The Prairie has never been tilled here, it's the same as if we never came," said Sherry Punak-Murphy, base biologist. "But we don't really know their natural habitat."

And this is a concern as encroaching aspen from Spruce Woods threatens to harm the Prairie grassland skinks call home.

University of Manitoba graduate student Shane Pratt hopes his ground-breaking tracking project will uncover their habitat mystery.

Having worked with Komodo dragons in Indonesia and crocodiles in Australia, the Ontario herpetologist wanted to do something innovative with reptiles on home soil.

Supervised by longtime skink researcher Pamela Rutherford from Brandon University, Pratt checks the Onah Station for skinks that have crawled under artificial coverings set up years before. Carpet, tile, wood, metal and plywood are all comforting for the small critters and Pratt said they tend to like hardwood the most.

Naturalists have monitored skinks in the area for years, but Errol Bredin worked to have the lizards recognized as a threatened species. After years of informal study, Bredin left a legacy of skink observations.

Students from Brandon University and the University of Manitoba spend hot summer days monitoring the fragile lizards' behaviour.

On a hot, dry morning, Pratt and fellow U of M research student Thierry Lavoie head out into the tall grass at Onah Station to find skinks large enough to have radio transmitters attached to them. "This tracking stuff has never been done before," Pratt said. "We also have no record of them moving more than 10 metres."

Skinks upwards of eight grams can be fitted with the tiny technology.

Searching the field with a large antenna and working with incoming signals, Pratt follows a male skink and Lavoie grabs the lizard. After making judgments on its path, the researchers are pleased.

"He's not undercover, which is exactly what I want," Pratt said. "He's also moved more than 10 metres. That's huge right now."

Twenty skinks will be tracked for the rest of summer.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 A7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The art & the craft of building guitars: Jordan McConnell

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada Goose cools off in a water pond Monday afternoon at Brookside Cemetary- See Bryksa’s Goose a day Challenge– Day 27-June 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do agree with the EPC's decision to release construction company Stuart Olson from its hotel-building obligation?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google