Horned lizard hunt led by Milam volunteers
Following participation in the biennial meeting of the Horned Lizard Conservation Society, held on May 1 at Texas A&M, conference attendees visited a private ranch near Gause and the IOOF cemetery in Rockdale, both sites where Texas horned lizards had been sighted in the past. El Camino Real Master Naturalists Jim Waldson, Lucy Coward, Katherine Bedrich and Cindy Bolch helped host the search.
Though the participants enjoyed wildflowers and lush native habitats, and harvester ants—the preferred food of horned lizards— were abundant, no horned lizards were sighted. A cool morning and cloud cover may have contributed to the lack of success, as horned lizards prefer temperatures in the upper 80s, according to Lee Ann Linam, Parks and Wildlife biologist.
Milam county horned lizard populations have proven interesting to biologists, as the lizards have disappeared from most of the eastern part of the state. Biologists theorize that the deep sandy soils and abundant native ants may have provided a place where the state’s official reptile persisted, even as other nearby populations permanently disappeared.
“Milam county residents and landowners are also making good habitat management choices,” Linam said. Biologists are hoping that, by better understanding the nature of the habitats in Milam county, they may be able to offer advice for the recovery of horned lizards in other parts of the state.
El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalists have played an important role in research on horned lizards in the area. A local committee, headed by Coward, began investigations last year to census horned lizards in the county as a part of the TPWD’s Texas Horned Lizard Watch program and collected DNA samples that became part of a statewide genetics study by Texas Christian University.
Coward and her committee are continuing their research efforts in 2010 and welcome reports of horned lizard sightings. Observations can be reported to lucy_ firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the Horned Lizard Conservation Society, the El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalists, or Texas Horned Lizard Watch can be found at:
• grovesite.com/tmn/ecrmn/ • www.tpwd.state.tx.us/hornedlizards/