From Texas Public Radio:
There’s news of a significant birth out in the far reaches of the Hill Country that has nature lovers excited.
Actually, 25 births.
It’s a Texas Parks and Wildlife program to encourage more horned toad procreation in the wild. Here’s the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area’s Jim Gallagher.
“It’s a little tough with everyone crawling around at the same time, but it looked like 25 little hatchlings made it to the surface. Everybody’s inside the cage like we hoped they would be,” Gallagher says.
The 5,300 acre Wildlife Management Area is one of two Texas Parks programs working in parallel efforts to try and re-establish sustainable populations. But it’s not a sure bet that the program will succeed.
“These guys are so small–you can put two or three of ’em on the head of a dime…there’s no way we can tag them or mark them or follow them. So, they’re just basically out there on their own, we have to just hope that they do well,” Gallagher says.
Nature didn’t equip the horned lizard with a strong defense.
“It’s kind of tough when you’re a short, fat little lizard who doesn’t run real fast and your biggest defense mechanism is just sit still,” Gallagher says.
The biggest reason why so many horned lizards disappeared in recent years is people. People turn pastures into neighborhoods, then try to eradicate horned toads’ biggest source for food–red harvester ants.
“When people move into these neighborhoods they usually bring kids, cats, dogs with them. If you’re a poor, helpless little horned lizard living in somebody’s back yard…that’s probably not real good for you either,” Gallagher says.
While the births are a good sign, only time will tell if the program will make a significant difference.