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California Protects the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard

February 12, 2015



The California Fish and Game Commission, responding to a Center for Biological Diversity petition, today made the flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) a candidate for species protections under the California Endangered Species Act. The lizards are now protected under California law, making it illegal to kill, harm or capture without state authorization. According to the Center, California’s state wildlife officials will gather data and analyze the status of the lizard, commonly known as the horny toad, and make a final protection determination next year. 


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flat tailed horned lizard

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The flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) is now protected under California law.

In December 2014, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife gave data to the Fish and Game Commission stating that there was enough scientific information to warrant protections for the lizard. The Center cites habitat loss, global warming and off road vehicles as reasons contributing to the decline of the species. 

The lizard, once abundant throughout the desert regions of Southern California, including the Sonoran Desert, can now only be found in portions of the Sonoran Desert in Southern California’s California Desert Conservation Area that includes Riverside, Imperial and San Diego counties.

Factors that have led to the reduction in population of the lizard includes habitat loss, off-road vehicles and global warming. Other factors that the center says has played a role in the decline of the species includes transmission lines, roads, energy development, and U.S. Border Patrol activities related to illegal immigration, drug smuggling, and vehicular travel. 

The flat-tailed horned lizard grows from 2.5 to 4.3 inches long. Although it is probably one of the most endearing looking lizards, it does not survive in captivity due to its diet, which is exclusively harvester ants. Horned lizards have been disappearing not only in California, but in Texas and Arizona as well due to mostly man made threats, such as energy development and habitat loss.

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