Texas Horned Lizard In Decline

July 15, 2014

Think twice before keeping a Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutumor any other horned lizard for that matter because not only are they virtually impossible to keep as a pet, it is illegal in the state of Texas to do so.

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The Texas horned lizard also called the horny toad or horned frog, is in decline in most of the state of Texas except West Texas, according to Russell Martin, a wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. West Texas is where there are large oil and gas exploration fields, and where the fight over the proposed endangered species listing of the Dunes Sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) occurred over the last few years. That lizard was not put on the endangered species list.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the lizard is doing fairly well in areas of West Texas, but is in decline in Central and East Texas. Martin attributes the decline to urbanization and the drop in harvester ant populations, the main food source for the lizard. The use of pesticides on invasive fire ants has contributed to the drop in harvester ants.

In addition to Texas, the lizard can also be found in southwestern Missouri, Kansas, much of the Southwestern United States and Mexico. It is against the law in Texas to kill the horned lizard or to collect it and keep it as a pet. While horned lizards are probably the coolest looking reptiles in North America, unless you have a steady supply of harvester ants (these lizards eat thousands of ants everyday) they are virtually impossible to keep. 

John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a kingsnake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 

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