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Texas Horned Lizard


The Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project at Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) at San Antonio Zoo seeks to restore the Texas horned lizard population by working with private landowners to introduce zoo hatched lizards in areas where it has disappeared in recent decades. CCR assesses candidate release sites based on several criteria using remote habitat ranking and boots-on-the-ground surveys. In addition, CCR provides management guidance and assistance to landowners who wish to manage their property for native biodiversity, including horned lizards.


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The iconic Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) is the state reptile of Texas and was once abundant across the western two-thirds of the state. Since the late 1960s, horned lizard populations have declined or disappeared in many areas due to a variety of factors, including deterioration, fragmentation, and loss of habitat; non-native invasive species such as exotic grasses and red imported fire ants; and pesticide use. Many Texans have fond memories of the Texas horned lizard (aka “horny toad”) and wish for its return to its former abundance.

The establishment of viable horned lizard populations requires the production of large numbers of hatchling lizards from CCR’s “Lizard Lab.” The lab is a 450-square foot room and the former receiving bay of the zoo’s warehouse that has been modified to include two sets of timer-controlled power outlets (one for UV lights and one for basking lights) and heavily insulated exterior walls. This room houses all breeder adults and seasonally serves as the “Lizard Nursery” for hatchling lizards.

Young lizards are introduced to the release site in early Fall, and the property is monitored for horned lizard activity at regular intervals. CCR has partnered with Paul Bunker, owner of Chiron K9, to develop the Horned Lizard Detection Canine Network, a group of volunteer handlers and their canines who are trained to find horned lizards. Dogs are trained with live horned lizards, scat, eggs, and shed skin so that they may detect any traces of Texas horned lizards in the field. This partnership with Chiron K9 provides CCR with an efficient long-term method for monitoring lizards post-release and helps to ensure the overall success of the project.

By re-establishing horned lizard populations and encouraging voluntary management that benefits native biodiversity, CCR hopes to improve native biodiversity across Texas and promote awareness and appreciation of this species for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. CCR’s long-term project goal is to develop replicable methodologies to share with other conservation entities to ultimately ensure the return of this beloved species to places where its absence is so deeply felt.

Project Impact:

  • On October 9th, 2020, 84 zoo-hatched Texas horned lizards were introduced into a suitable 2,000-acre habitat in Blanco County, Texas.
  • 80% of Texans live in areas where the Texas Horned Lizard has been extirpated.
  • Over $275,000 contributed through direct funds and research grants to programs geared towards re-establishing horned lizard populations, ecological studies, habitat management, and identifying and mitigating potential causes for the decline.

Partners Include:
The Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project at Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) at San Antonio Zoo is supported by a wealth of partners and collaborators, including Amy Shelton McNutt Charitable Foundation, Cesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Chiron K9 and the Horned Lizard Detection Canine teams, Circle Bar Foundation, Elizabeth Hueth Coates Charitable Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation, Maltsberger-Storey Family Foundation, Nelson Puett, San Miguel Energy, Texas Christian University, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, The Nelson Puett Foundation, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Texas, V. H. McNutt Memorial Foundation, Winkler Family Foundation, Winn Family Foundation, and many other donors and private landowners. The Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project at Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) at San Antonio Zoo was selected by Texan by Nature for Conservation Wrangler status based on the project's positive impact om people, prosperity, and natural resources.

2021 Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler

 

How can you help?

Are you located in Texas? NO Please consider donating an inspired gift to our project above.

YES

   

Are you located within the project area?

NO

Please refer to the TPWD Wildlife Biologist working in your area to see how you can help. 


Also refer to our THL advocacy guide to learn how YOU can help horned lizards.


Also consider donating an inspired gift to our project above.

YES

   

Do you own land in Texas?

NO

Please refer to our THL advocacy guide to learn how YOU can help horned lizards.


Also consider donating an inspired gift to our project above.

YES

   

Please fill out our Landowner survey to determine if your land meets our habitat requirements for reintroduction.

See our THL advocacy guide to see how to manage your land to help horned lizards.

 

How can your donation help horned lizards?

Click the link to see our 

Horned Lizard Donation Guide