The Eastern Blue-tongue, Tiliqua scincoides, is greyish brown, with between 7 and 10 darker bars across the body. It is a large skink, growing to a snout vent length of 290 mm.
Common Blue-Tongue LizardPhotographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty. Ltd.
Although more common on the basalt plains to the west of Melbourne, Common Blue-tongue Lizards are also found on the Mornington Peninsula. They are usually found basking or sheltering under cover such as fallen logs, or discarded rubbish such as timber or iron.
Their diet consists of both plant and animal material, such as snails. Females give birth to as many as 25 live young in a litter.
Cogger, H. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books.
Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.
There are a number of potential culprits that would steal eggs. Foxes are the most likely, but they would also be stealing your chickens if they had the opportunity. Brushtail Possums and rats will take the eggs but not the chickens. Blue-tongue Lizards would not be able to climb a barrier of 60cm, but most snakes would have little problem with this. If you can sweep the area with a broom at the end of the day, any tracks around the nesting boxes the following day may give you a clue.
Blue-tongue Lizards will often live more than 20 years. You mention that you've had the lizard for seven years but don't indicate how old it actually is. It's not always possible to determine an old lizard by its appearance, so it can be difficult to estimate age without knowing exactly when it was born. Blue-tongues are most vulnerable during or immediately after hibernation - if you've hibernated the lizard over winter it may have picked up an infection and now succumbed. This is the most common cause of death in the wild. Otherwise the issue may simply be old age.
It's health may improve if you keep it indoors, particularly during cold weather - other than that, it will continue to inevitably decline.
Blue-tongue Lizards attacked by pets don’t have a particularly good survival rate unless treated by a vet and given antibiotics and other medication. As it’s a wild animal, it is your decision whether or not to take the lizard to the vet. There are a number of specialist reptile vets around Melbourne, and also a number of vets who treat wild native animals for a minimal fee.
Although it's been acknowledged for a long time that Blue-tongue Lizards eat plant material, there are very few records about which species they will eat. Almost all captive animals are fed vegetable matter in the form of fruits and vegetables, and observations of the dietary habits of wild specimens are few and far between. What little information there is comes largely from analysis of scats and gut contents, and the only references to specific plant species we can find are that they consume flowers during spring and eat increasing amounts of leaf material during summer. These include the seeds of Dianella and the leaves and flowers of the introduced Medicago.
Given the paucity of available information, it may pay to trial a few plant species yourself from the lizards' natural range.
From our research, it sounds like you do have quite an elderly lizard! It is probably less likely in nature for one to live so long but it is thought they may live to thirty years, given ideal conditions and maybe a lot of luck! There are a number of references which suggest 20 years or more possible life span as with yours.
Male and female Bluetongues are very difficult to distinguish and even using a range of different features, sexing is never certain. Males, for example, have proportionately bigger heads, but females are generally bigger so may have a large head anyway. The only certain way is to see who gives birth!
Hi Scott - Blue-tongue Lizards live alone for most of the year, but between September and November males pursue females persistently and may be found together in a single burrow. This is only a temporary arrangement and we suspect that's what the adults you mentioned are doing. The smaller lizard may be unrelated or may be the offspring from a previous breeding season - Blue-tongue Lizards may live 20 years and breed every two to three years.
Blue Tongues regularly produce 20 or more offspring per birthing episode, so it's understandable that you're wondering about the appearance of a single offspring. This can sometimes happen due to several reasons - the most common seem to be low sperm production from the male, or a female at the start of her reproductive life, or one at the end of her reproductive life.
It's possible that more offspring may appear, and if they do so it will happen over the next week or so. But the most likely scenario is that no more will be born.
Hi Chloe - we checked with our Live Exhibits experts about this, and they have responded as follows:
Garden Skinks and Blue Tongue Lizards do not do well together. Whilst a Blue Tongue will live in peace with larger lizards such as dragons, it will continually chase the skinks around and, if it does not kill them, will stress them and probably make them drop their tails.
Hi Stella - we ran these questions past our live exhibits crew, who have responded as follows:
Blue Tongues in captivity will happily eat dry and wet dog food but they should not be fed cat food. There is also no good reason to feed them rice. If the enclosure is of a suitable size, Blue Tongues will live in harmony with Bearded Dragons and Shinglebacks, but male Blue Tongues should not be housed together as they will usually injure and even kill each other in a short time.
Please also be aware that reptiles in captivity should be sourced from a breeder, who should be able to provide husbandry advice, and that many species require a permit to be kept in captivity.
Hi again Stella - we ran this past our Live Exhibits team also, here's their reply:
Blue Tongue Lizards cannot be sexed with any accuracy until they are at least one year old, often older. Even then sexing can be difficult and/or unreliable, but it is definitely not possible to sex a three week old lizard.
Hi Lyn, Blue Tongue lizards don't mate for life - they will mate with any available partner, which generally changes from year to year. Lizards such as Shinglebacks will mate with the same partner each year, but will seek out others if their partner dies.
You can either move the Blue Tongue to another suitable location now (100m away should be enough), or when you're ready to have the pool area redone, move the Blue Tongue to another part of the garden and it should seek out somewhere else to shelter. Blue Tongue lizards are not generally tied to any particular location and will move if it becomes uninhabitable.
Hi Harrison, we forwarded your query to the Manager of our Live Exhibits team, and he's responded as follows:
As long as you consider the Blue Tongue to be healthy, it might just need some time to adjust to the new arrangements. With regular attention to the lizard and careful handling, it should get used to your presence once again. If you’re concerned about the lizard’s health, then a trip to the vet might help the situation.
Hope this helps
Hi Sue; we checked with our Live Exhibits manager on this, and his response is as follows:
It is possible for Blotched and Eastern Blue Tongue Lizards to mate and produce offspring, but this is an extremely rare occurrence and we don’t know of any cases where the offspring have survived to adulthood. It’s possible for a number of members of the Blue Tongue genus (Tiliqua) to hybridise, including Stumpy Tails, but it’s very rare. It would also be unusual if your lizards have mated at this time of year, even if they are being kept warm inside. So mating in this case is possible but high unlikely.
Hi Mick- we've posed this to our Live Exhibits team, who have the following reply for you:
Because blue tongue lizards occur naturally in Victoria, they are more than capable of coping with the seasons. During winter when it hibernates (or brumates, as it is sometimes referred to in reptiles), its activity and metabolism is greatly reduced, and it’s designed not to move around or feed during this period. If the lizard does eat, the body can’t digest the food and it may sit in the lizard’s stomach until the weather becomes warm enough to digest it, probably not until Spring, which can cause all sorts of problems. So the best option is to leave the blue tongue alone until it appears of its own volition later in the year
If the Blue Tongue has been living in the shed for some time, it's fairly certain it is able to get in and out as it pleases, probably through a crack in the base of the shed. Blue Tongue lizards can squeeze through surprisingly small holes. In that case the Blue Tongue won't leave through the open door when it has a more protected means of getting in and out. A shed can be an excellent shelter for Blue Tongues and it is unlikely to leave of its own accord.
If there really is no other means of entry for the lizard, the only way to remove it is to pick it up and place it in the garden. They defend themselves by hissing and other aggressive gestures, but they are harmless if you keep away from the mouth (and even then they are fairly harmless).
If there is another means of entry, the only way to keep it out is to find the entrance and block it, then physically remove the lizard.
But it sounds like an excellent example of peaceful coexistence in a backyard.
We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.
Hi Justin,We forwarded your question to Museum Victoria’s Live Exhibits team who provided us with the following information:There are many internet sites solely dedicated to the sale of reptiles. A quick web search should provide you with plenty to choose from. Most reptile forums also have a for sale section that may be useful. Other places to try are some of the local pet shops that deal in reptiles.As it is domesticated it should not be released back into the wild.
Hi Anne, Blue tongues are omnivores and will eat a wide range of food – from fruit, veggies and any animals that they can get their mouths around. In a normal situation I would imagine that a frog can jump away far more quickly than a blue tongue lizard can hunt so they should be safe living in your courtyard.
Hi Britt, blue tongues are very difficult to sex – males tend to have a slightly broader head but this is not reliable – there is no easy way to sex them.
Please be aware that you need a permit from Department of Sustainability and Environment to catch a blue tongue, as they are native animals. For details on permits see their website at www.dse.vic.gov.au.
Had one in Berwick, VIC! I am from the funnel-Web belt in Sydney - lots of sandstone and am use to the pesky creatures.
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That's very interesting