A baby horned lizard is tagged with a harmonic tracking device before being released at Mason Mountain, Texas. (AP)

A baby horned lizard is tagged with a harmonic tracking device before being released at Mason Mountain, Texas. (AP)

Baby horned lizards are tagged with  harmonic tracking devices that look cumbersome but are actually very lightweight. (AP)

Baby horned lizards are tagged with harmonic tracking devices that look cumbersome but are actually very lightweight. (AP)

It takes a delicate touch and tiny tools to fit tiny tracking devices to tiny lizards! (AP)

It takes a delicate touch and tiny tools to fit tiny tracking devices to tiny lizards! (AP)

The baby horned lizards are barely larger than a fingernail. (AP)

The baby horned lizards are barely larger than a fingernail. (AP)

Ten of 139 baby horned lizards released at Mason Mountain, Texas, were fitted with tracking tags. (AP)

Ten of 139 baby horned lizards released at Mason Mountain, Texas, were fitted with tracking tags. (AP)

Horned Frogs, We’re All for You!

Posted: March 4, 2019

Meet the horned toad—also known as the horned frog or Texas horned lizard. His round, camouflaged body looks ancient. He has real horns on his head. And . . . he can shoot blood out of his eyes! The blood squirts about three feet. It confuses predators and a chemical in the lizard blood harms dogs, wolves, and coyotes. Sound scary? Actually, these lizards (they aren’t really toads or frogs) are usually gentle, not aggressive. They are easy to catch and they make fun pets. Or they used to. It’s hard to find these Texas state reptiles anywhere today. They’ve vanished!

Most Texans see horned lizards only at the zoo—or maybe at a football game. The Texas Christian University (TCU) mascot is a horned frog. TCU fans chant, “Horned Frogs, we’re all for you!” And the whole state of Texas is cheering for the real horned lizard. For 10 years, biologists, zookeepers, landowners, ecologists, and workers from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have been trying to save them. Until now, their ideas haven’t worked. Hatchlings, or baby lizards, are the size of a quarter. They are too small to wear bulky transmitters for tracking. Even if they are born in a zoo and then released into the wild, they rarely survive. No one knows what happens to them.

But this fall, a new idea worked! Just before 139 hatchlings were released, 10 had a tiny tracking tag glued to their backs. Do the math: Ten lizards were tagged. After one month, five were still trackable. Then, one lizard buried itself to hibernate. (That’s a really good sign—a lizard living a normal lizard life!) Three of the lizards lost their tags by shedding their skin. (That’s a problem for trackers!) One stayed above ground a few more weeks before hibernating. (More great news!)

The project was successful. Some lizards lived! The tiny trackers will help scientists help horned lizards. Texans hope these reptile families will grow. Then maybe a TCU football game won’t be the only place a horned frog can be spotted in Texas!

Did you know that lizards are mentioned in the Bible? In the Book of Leviticus, they are listed as “unclean” animals that the Israelites were not to eat.