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The Texas Horned Lizard

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What is a 
horny toad?

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Horny Toads are neither frogs nor toads. As members of the reptile family, they are technically Horned Lizards. But if you grew up in Texas, it's a horny toad.

Why is the Texas Horned Lizard on the endangered species list?

Most older Texans have had, at one time or another, a horny toad for a pet. Its appeal is the combination of a fierce appearance and a surprisingly pleasant personality. You can hold one in your hand, turn it over on its back, and stroke its belly until it dozes off. Unfortunately, the horny toad's appeal is in part responsible for the rapid decline. In the fifties and early sixties, every tourist trap on every Texas highway sold horny toads as souvenirs. Some collectors gathered hundreds of thousands in a single year by paying schoolchildren a nickel for each one they brought in. Out of their natural home, the animals died, and so the state began protecting the Texas Horned Lizard in 1967. Today it is illegal even to own one as the Texas Horned Lizard is now a state-listed threatened species (federal category C2).

A second factor in the demise of the horny toad was pesticides. Chemical sprays that didn't kill the creature itself killed harvester ants, its main food supply. Urbanization also hurt horny toads as widespread construction tore up their habitat. They actually liked highway asphalt, which retained enough heat to make an ideal lounging spot. But because horny toads instinctively freeze when they see movement, cars flattened them left and right. Nevertheless, there are still horny toads in Texas.

 

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