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Texas horned lizards making a comeback

Texas horned lizard hatchling

A Texas horned toad hatchling no bigger than a quarter that was eventually tagged and released at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area in 2019. Courtesy photo

Texas horned lizards believed to be the offspring of zoo-raised hatchlings released in 2019 were discovered in August when Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists and graduate students went to Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area to release 204 more young reptiles. While there, they found 18 hatchlings believed to be offspring of the 2019 release, marking the first time that captive-reared horned lizards have survived long enough to successfully reproduce in the wild.

For more than 10 years, the Texas Horned Lizard Coalition, including TPWD, Texas Christian University, and zoos in Fort Worth, Dallas, San Antonio, and elsewhere, has studied how to restore Texas horned lizards to formerly occupied habitats. Reintroduction efforts occurred at Mason Mountain and Muse wildlife management areas.

The Fort Worth Zoo developed the breeding and husbandry protocols required to successfully breed and care for Texas horned lizards in managed collections. These practices have since been implemented and modeled at several zoos across the state. The Fort Worth Zoo has the longest-running captive breeding effort in Texas, and, in fact, the zoo hatched its 1,000th Texas horned lizard in early September.

Biologists remain optimistic that continued research and restoration work will ultimately lead to self-sustaining wild populations of Texas horned lizards. Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide the funding needed. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com