TCU scientists are in Karnes County this summer to study this and other questions about the Texas horned lizard, also known as horned toad, horned frog, and horny toad.
TCU Professor Dean Williams and graduate student, Ashley Wall have been scouring alleyways and vacant lots and looking to local residents for help to find horned toads for their studies. Their efforts have been well-received by the public and the scientists are happy to report that horned lizard populations in Karnes County are still found throughout the county, though in much smaller numbers than in years past.
The smaller number of horned lizards is the reason that scientists are interested in studying horned toad habits like where horned toads hang out. Other issues up for study include where horned toads sleep, how they feed, how they interact with each other, and how they interact with people. The answers to these questions may help us to know what we can do slow the decline of horned lizard populations throughout the southwestern United States.
Even though the horned lizard is not a species for sportsmen or livestock producers and has no economic value, it is an animal endeared for its lore and our fond memories. So we have an interest in conservation efforts to save the species for future generations.
The horned lizard also seems to be a sensitive indicator species that may give clues to unhealthy changes in our environment. Uncovering the factors that are contributing to the decline of horned toads may help us to provide a healthier environment for people.
Graduate student Ashley Wall has been gathering a variety of information this summer about Karnes County horned lizards that she will analyze later in her studies at TCU. She has been recording weights and measures of horned toads and descriptions of their appearance and environmental details of their locations. She has been collecting DNA samples and scat samples for laboratory analysis.
Ashley has also been recording the places horned toads hang out. By fitting a few horned toads with battery powered radio transmitters she has been tracking their movements each day to discover their wandering and homing habits – finding out where horned toads hang out. Look for her story about radio tracking horned toads in next week’s Countywide.
In the meantime, citizens, be on the lookout for horned toads in your neighborhood. Help the scientists by reporting horned toad sightings. You can respond by using the drop boxes located at your city hall office or by calling your report to the Horned Toad Club through Dr. Wade Phelps in Kenedy at 830-583-9891.