Texas Horned Lizards on the Comeback Trail

| August 8, 2011

Protected Texas Horned Lizard in North Texas

I could hardly believe my ears when I heard rumors of “horny toads” sighted around the wells out here in the Middle, but it wasn’t long before Leslie walked in with one just to prove it.

It was the first Texas Horned Lizard I had seen in … forty years. The mythology surrounding their retreat is about as vast as the legends of seeing one somewhere in Texas, here or there. They are becoming our own real version of sasquatch, and rightly so decades of being missing from our yards, gardens and sand lots.

Some quick reference work helped me fill in some of the blanks. I had heard that the State Lizard was on the decline years ago due to pesticides, human intrusion, fire ants, and I am sure someone somewhere has tied it to global warming. The fact of the matter is they are “threatened” and it is illegal to disturb one or take one as a pet without a permit.

If you are able to get a permit to own a Texas Horned Lizard as a pet, you would be feeding it red ants, grasshoppers (no problem) and perhaps a dessert of termites. Horned Lizards are notoriously docile and have been part of many a kid’s circus performing act. I won’t name names, but they were also living crawling brooches intended to scare grandmothers as well. Their main defense mechanism is to puff up making themselves look bigger, and at the same time making their spines stand out. As a final stroke of pure genius, their final defense is to squirt blood from their eyes. Have no doubt, the Horned Lizard ifluenced the looks of Godzilla.
Horned Lizard not Horny Toad Not Horned Frog
The Texas Horned Lizard is not a “horned toad,” or “horned frog.”

It is my privilege to report that the rumors of the Horned Lizard’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. We probably identified a half dozen of the spiny guys lurking in the shade, grabbing sun (for vitamin D) when no one was around, and darting back in the shade for safety.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s mascot of sorts is, you guessed it, the Texas Horned Lizard, and you can participate in TPWD’s efforts to survey and learn more about the habitat and needs of the Texas Horned Lizard population. If you’re in the North Texas area, the Fort Worth Zoo has a Horned Lizard display in its Texas Wild! exhibit.

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Category: Culture on the Skids, Science and Environmental

About the Author ()

I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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  1. shannon says:

    Finally back from the Middle. Hang on everybody, more stories to come. IT IS RAINING IN DENTON TEXAS THIS MORNING!