The Texas horned lizard is the most iconic Texas reptile. Horned lizards were once abundant throughout a large range. Today, horned lizard populations have declined or disappeared in many places in Texas. There is no single smoking gun to explain the decline of horned lizards but habitat loss and invasive species (pesticide use, exotic grasses, and red imported fire ants) are frequently implicated. However, sufficient areas of suitable habitat exist where horned lizards may be reintroduced and many landowners are engaged in landscape management practices that are conducive to horned lizards. In addition, there is growing interest among landowners to return this species to the landscape for the enjoyment of present and future generations. San Antonio Zoo’s Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project will use GIS data, genetics, and current knowledge about horned lizard ecology and distribution to release large numbers of captive-born individuals in suitable habitat. This project began in 2016.
This project will require both field (habitat survey, monitoring, and maintenance) and laboratory components (rearing of red harvester ants, husbandry and care of breeder lizards and offspring). Essential to this effort will be the establishment of a “lizard factory”: a climate-controlled, biosecure facility with the potential for expansion as the project grows. At this time, funding is needed to complete preparation of a lizard room capable of housing several dozen breeder lizards in addition to ant culture facilities, lights, tanks, shelving, and other equipment necessary for maintaining a robust population of Texas horned lizards. As this project moves forward, additional funding will be required for habitat surveys, monitoring, management, and release of lizards. This project recently received funding from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Reptile and Amphibian Research and Conservation Fund.
Project Partners: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Christian University, and private landowners.