Texas horned lizard release, research efforts mark breakthrough in species conservation

The Texas horned lizard is one of the more than 1,300 species most in need of conservation in Texas.

However, Thursday marks a milestone for the reptile as 204 captive-bred hatchlings are released back into the wild.

For the past 10 years, the Texas Horned Lizard Coalition, in collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife, has been studying how to reintroduce the “horned toad” to its once occupied habitats.

These reintroduction efforts have taken place in wildlife management areas where horned lizards are essentially new vital habitat, according to TPWD.

“Texas horned lizards have large clutches with many eggs, often with multiple clutches each year,” TPWD said. “Researchers tried to move adult lizards, capture them in the wild, and then release them on the WMAs. This provided a wealth of valuable data, but it also shed light on the challenges. Many displaced lizards are dead, killed by predators. ”

Additionally, capturing and moving adult lizards from one location to another to establish self-sustaining populations may not be a long-term option, TPWD said.

“For these reasons, in recent years the focus has shifted to captive breeding Texas horned lizards at partner zoos, which allows for the breeding and release of hundreds of lizards at a time.” , said Texas Parks and Wildlife.

A recent find in August in the Mason Mountain Wilderness Management Area indicated a breakthrough in these efforts. Biologists and graduates have discovered 18 newborns, believed to be descendants of newborn babies raised in a zoo and released in 2019, blooming in their homes.

“To their knowledge, this is the first time that captive-bred horned lizards have survived long enough to breed successfully in the wild,” TPWD said. “Biologists remain optimistic that continued research and restoration will ultimately lead to self-sustaining wild populations of Texas horned lizards.”

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, a historic bipartisan proposal, Recover US Wildlife Law, can provide the funding to save this species and hundreds more.

Anyone interested in helping can visit the Texas Wildlife Alliance online toolbox.

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