Joyce Block

Master Gardener

Looking out the windows that overlook my backyard, I noticed my cats were playing with “something” again. Could it be a snake, a gecko or a leaf?

When I went out to look, the little creature ran away from me and I didn’t give it a second thought. Later that week, my husband said, “There is something on that tree.” We went over and looked and it was a horned toad.

The Texas horned toad, also known as the Texas horned lizard, is one of three species that live in Texas.

The differences between the three species are the amount of the horns that each toad has. There is one that has two horns, (Phrynosuma comutum), one with four medium-sized horns (Phrynosuma modestum) and a short-horned variety, (Phrynosuma douglassi). All of the horned toads are brownish-colored with fringed scales on their backs.

The horned toad seeks its food in open areas. It eats red ants and grasshoppers. They love it hot – 80 to 95 degrees is when they are the most active. Unfortunately, it can become prey for roadrunners, hawks and other predators. The defenses the horned toad uses is is that it puffs itself up so it appears larger than it really is. Its color is a natural camouflage.

It has become a threatened lizard in Texas because of several situations: the use of pesticides, the spread of the imported fire ants and changes in the way land is used.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site has information if you would like to become a member of the Texas Horned Lizard Watch program. This program gives you information on how to try to attract horned toads to your property and how to look for them in your area.

May this information help you enjoy the time in your garden.

This article includes information from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site.

Joyce Block is a Johnson County Master Gardener, a member of the Wild Bunch Writers and lives in Alvarado.

For more information, contact the Johnson County Master Gardener Association or Pat Kriener 817-793-4625.