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 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 onseveral criteria using remote habitat ranking and boots-on-the-ground surveys. In addition, CCR provides management guidance and assistance to land owners who wish to manage their property for native biodiversity, including horned lizards.
After lizards are released, sites are monitored for horned lizard activity at regular intervals. In order to do this effectively and efficiently, CCR has partnered with Paul Bunker, owner of Chiron K9, who has developed the Horned Lizard Detection Canine Network, a group of volunteer handlers and their canines who are trained to find horned lizards. Effective post release monitoring is critical for the success of the project.
By re-establishing horned lizard populations and encouraging voluntary management that benefits native biodiversity, CCR hopes with this project to improvenative 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 otherconservation entities to ultimately ensure the return of this beloved species to places where its absence is so deeply felt.
How Can You Help?
If you are interested in learning more about Texas horned lizards and all the different ways you can help this species, check out our: Texas Horned Lizard Advocacy Guide
This guide was created through our partnership with Texan by Nature, and features best practices and learnings from organizations such as Chiron K9, Dallas Zoo, The Horned Lizard Conservation Society, Texas Christian University, and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
This project is entirely funded by private grants and donations. We simply couldn’t do it without support from individuals like you. To see how your donation can directly benefit horned lizards, checkout our Donation Chart.
2021 Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler