DO HORNED LIZARDS LIVE?
11-year-old grandson Parker called me from a coastal island with exciting
news. Problem was that I took the call outside a restaurant with people
jabbering and at a spot where I had a sketchy cell phone connection.
All I heard was blood, horns, and caught
Brooks song had just finished playing inside so I mused on the possibility
that Parker was calling during a visit to a rodeo.
I cant hear you and can you hear me? enough
times that people entering and exiting were giving me looks of mild
annoyance and shaking their heads, I hung up, found a better location,
and called him back.
caught an adult horned toad and he sprayed blood on me through his eyes,
just like they are supposed to, Parker said when I could hear
all made sense. My son and grandson were on Isle of Palms, a barrier
island off the South Carolina coast near Charleston. The island is noted
for being one of the locations where Texas horned lizards, which are
also called horned toads or horned frogs, have been introduced and now
to the book Lizards and Crocodilians of the Southeast, the
species has become established in at least three southeastern states
outside their natural range from Kansas through Texas and into Mexico.
horned lizards in the Southeast were brought from other states by pet
owners and released in areas that were similar to their native habitat
of plentiful sun and sand.
of them took a liking to the coastal dunes and sandy terrain of barrier
islands to begin reproducing and increasing their population sizes in
populations have been reported from some localities in Alabama (including
Tuscaloosa), several places in Louisiana, and parts of Georgia, but
it is doubtful any of these have survived. However, in addition to Isle
of Palms, breeding populations are known to occur on Edisto Island;
Jacksonville and Santa Rosa Island, Florida; and in Onslow County, North
Carolina, north of Wilmington.
lizard looks like a flat armored tank with small jutting protuberances
on the back and a crown of large, formidable looking bony spines on
the back of the head.
the head spines deter predation by certain snakes, birds, and small
mammals. But their true claim to fame in predatory defense is that when
they are approached by a dog, coyote, or fox they squirt blood from
as in my grandsons case, humans may also get to experience the
phenomenon. Maybe he barked before he made his capture. Texas horned
lizards have short tails and get about 4 inches long.
they look prehistoric and somewhat dangerous, they are completely harmless
to humans. The primary prey of horned lizards are ants and other small
of irony often accompany tales of introduced animals in a region. For
one thing, whereas fire ants, privet and kudzu are not native anywhere
in the United States and are despised by most people, other introduced
species, including honeybees and camellias, are well loved.
lizards are U.S. natives that have been introduced to the southeastern
states where they do not really belong. But they are delightful little
beasts that cause no harm I know of to any of our native species. If
they choose to dine on fire ants I am all in favor of that.
the Texas horned lizard, which was designated the Texas state reptile
in 1993, no longer occurs at many locations in the Lone Star state where
it was once common. However, they have a wide geographic range and are
still common in parts of their western range as well as a few places
in the Southeast.
very cool animals, so lets hope they can remain in the places
they now live, including Isle of Palms, so I can receive more phone
calls of captures but with better phone reception.
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