Citizen-scientists on Texas horned lizard watch

Texas horned lizard

If you spot a Texas horned lizard, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to know. The best way to do that is through the Herps of Texas Project on iNaturalist.org, said Nathan Rains, a wildlife diversity biologist with the department.

“Take a picture and record where you saw it,” Rains said. “Then, enter that information into iNaturalist.”

Citizen-scientists must first sign up with iNaturalist, which tracks all types of animals. It works on computers, tablets, and smartphones.

“It’s been revolutionary for our assessments of where horned lizards occur,” Rains continued. “With a program like this, we can get real data. That was a huge milestone for us when this program started.”

All sightings are investigated to make sure the reptile photographed is correctly identified. The information entered into a database is used by researchers around the world.

Sightings of the Texas horned lizard are often misreported as it is similar to other lizards. It is one of 14 North American species of horned lizard. Three of the species are native to Texas; two of those are in the Big Bend area.

Most sightings in Central, South, or East Texas are one-offs, Rains said, meaning they were “pets” that were released or escaped. Mason County is the closest known population of Texas horned lizards to the Highland Lakes.

suzanne@thepicayune.com

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