Conserving and Restoring the Horned Toad’s Natural Habitat

In Texas, there are three species of horned lizards, the Texas Horned Toad, the Round-Tailed Horned Lizard and the Greater Short-Horned Lizard. (Photo by Russell Graves)

By Jessica Crabtree

Texas is well known for its state flag, shape, size and of course, the Texas Longhorn. Another historic figure, much smaller, is sometimes considered the state’s mascot. It is the iconic Texas horned lizard, also known as the horned frog or horned toad.

Their scientific name Phrynosoma means “toad-body.” The interesting creatures are named for the crown of horns on their heads, their size and number of horns, which vary among species.

Unfamiliar to most, the horned toad, lizard or frog is not an amphibian, but is a reptile with scales, claws and reproduces on land. According to Texas Park and Wildlife, there are more than a dozen different horned lizard species throughout western North America. The horned lizard wears a fierce appearance with its flat body and numerous horns. All of the horned toad’s horns are prominent, with two large horns central to the head spines, which are much longer.

A horned toad is brown in color and has two rows of fringed scales along each side of its body. Although intimidating to an observer, the horned toad offers no harm. Amazingly enough, the reptile’s appearance and coloration allow it excellent blending to its environment when necessary. The Texas horned lizards have a light line that can be indentified, extending across from the head down the middle of the back. It is the only species of horned lizard to have a dark brown strip that extends downward from the eyes and across the top of their head.

In Texas, there are three species of horned lizards. The most widespread is the Texas Horned Toad (Phrynosoma cornutum).
The other two species being Round-Tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum) and the Greater Short-Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi).

These species inhabit arid and semiarid habitats in open areas with sparse plant cover. However, they can each be readily distinguished. It is common one may find a horned lizard in loose or loamy soil since they dig for hibernation, nesting and insulation.

As for other areas the horned lizard inhabits, the Texas Parks and Wildlife reports horned lizards range from the south-central United States to northern Mexico, throughout much of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico. In recent years the decrease in population has grabbed the attention of landowners, ranchers, farmers and horned toad lovers. Currently, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas horned lizard is listed as a threatened species in Texas (federal category C2).

To read more pick up a copy of the September 2017 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.