What are Sand Skinks?

The Florida sand skink is a small, unique lizard adapted to an underground life beneath the surface in the sandy soil of Central Florida’s ridges. Sand skinks live in the parts of Florida that have higher elevations, like the Lake Wales Ridge in rural Polk County.

Sand skinks are a protected species because they only exist in the Florida sand skink habitat and nowhere else on the planet. Many scientists argue that sand skinks should be removed from the threatened species list, sighting a study that found that sand skinks exist in sandy soils in more habitats than were initially thought.

There are three criteria for determining the presence of sand skinks:
  1. Location
  2. Elevation
  3. Soils

If sand skinks are discovered on your property, there are a number of steps that need to be taken in compliance with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For every sighting of sand skinks, an 80-foot buffer must be made to the property around the place of discovery to reduce habitat loss.

If the buffer is not made, the landowner will be required to purchase two credits from a conservation bank. Each credit costs $25,000 which means that occupying land containing sand skinks can cost a landowner $50,000 per acre. It is essential for those buying land in Florida to be aware of this financial and environmental risk.

Land can be made less habitable for sand skinks. Limiting the amount of sandy soil on a property can lessen the chances of sand skink presence. For instance, instead of leaving sandy soil between orange groves, it would be helpful to have grass growing between them.

In order to disprove the presence of sand skinks on a property that meets the three criteria, landowners must conduct a formal coverboard survey lasting 7 weeks. This survey involves putting 40 2x2 boards over an acre of property and checking under those boards for a sign of sand skinks.

If you are considering a Central Florida land purchase, you'll need to consider the presence of sand skinks. In this video, Richard Dempsey, of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate, sits down with Elaine Imbruglia, President of Modica & Associates, to discuss how to deal with sand skinks.



Elaine Imbruglia, President of Modica & AssociatesElaine Imbruglia

Elaine has 24 years of experience in ecological consulting and scientific studies. She has worked for the private, public and non-profit sectors. Imbruglia specializes in comprehensive environmental planning and strategic site design for large-scale projects.





Richard Dempsey, Real Estate Sales Associate at Saunders Real EstateRichard Dempsey

Richard Dempsey, ALC, is a licensed real estate associate specializing in all types of agricultural land, citrus groves, large acreage tracts, ranches, hunting/recreational tracts, and commercial/development land. He has been associated with SVN Saunders Real Estate since 2000. Learn more about Richard.




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