Let’s face it, the majority of Blue Tongue Skinks in the pet trade currently are imported indonesian (or subspecies) Blue Tongue Skinks. This could mean that the unsuspecting buyer who is expecting the easily handled captive bred blue tongue skink, ends up with a hissy, reclusive, and defensive animal which they are not prepared for. Though the animal may never calm down to the point of a captive bred blue tongue skink, we can “socialize” this bluey to the point that handling doesn’t put as much stress on the animal.
By socialize, I really mean get the skink used to human contact so that when handling is needed (or desired by the human keeper) it doesn’t put stress on the skink. Stress causes a lot of issues in captive reptiles. Ranging from disease, to going off feed, to just putting them in a really bad mood. So really, when working with most Wild Caught reptiles, taking steps similar to this can help them adjust to life in captivity.
The first thing to always remember is always stay calm. It can be quite the task working with an animal who is deathly afraid of you and only wants to run away. It can also be intimidating to have a blue tongue skink gape it’s mouth, threatening to bite you, and hiss. You might get bitten, and you have to accept that. Take it from me, when it comes to Blue Tongue Skinks the thought of being bitten is a lot more painful than the bite itself. Anyways, 99% of the time they are only bluffing, and as soon as you go near them they stop bluffing and attempt to run away.
Okay, so now you’ve overcome your fears of the not so terrible bluey bite… Well what’s next? Patience. This isn’t going to be an easy task. This bluey was trapped (or farmed), and shipped to a pet store. It probably doesn’t trust humans. So its going to be a slow and steady process.
This is where I would start. Sleep in a tee-shirt for a few days (make sure you aren’t wearing any perfume or deodorant before, have a shower if you had some on) and then knot up the openings so the skink can’t get into it. Place this in his enclosure and leave it in there. He will hide under the shirt, and lay on top of it and start linking up your smell with security and safety.
I would then move onto hand feeding. The title of that is pretty self explanatory, off the skink small bits of food by hand. If the animal is too afraid to try, don’t force it. Just allow him/her to eat by itself and try again next feeding time, they’ll catch on eventually.
Once the Bluey will let you pick her/him up with only a little bit of hissing, and no gaping, begin handling sessions. Just let the skink walk on you and explore. Start for the first week at keeping these very short, around five minutes. Week two bump it up to ten minutes. Week three bump it up to fifteen. Once the skink is comfortable in the fifteen minute range of handling you should be good to go for longer. However, remember the skink still needs the heat and UVB lighting in it’s enclosure so don’t keep them out for too long.
Remember, you will have good days and bad days. One day you might think you’ve made real progress and then the next the bluey might be right back to square one. They will come around, you just need to take the time to do it!