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Checking footwear for spiders or snakes every morning is second nature to many Australians, particularly those living near the bush. John Dengate discovered a creature in one of his boots that at first looked dangerous, but on closer inspection turned out to be a totally harmless three-toed skink. To avoid a nasty surprise when you put on shoes and boots, John recommends either shaking them out, or stamping on the outsides (although this could hurt a harmless creature like the skink).

Three-toed skink (Saiphos equalis)

These skinks are common in coastal areas of eastern Australia.

They are often found in compost heaps and in the garden. They are brown and orange and have four small limbs, each with three toes. When disturbed they can look like a snake, because they thrash about with their legs out of sight, trying to burrow to safety.

Further reading

Frogs and Reptiles of the Sydney Region by Ken Griffiths (University of NSW, 1997). Living with Wildlife by Eva Murray (Reed Books, 1989).