Keeping Horny Toads (Really Horned Lizards) Phrynosoma -- Not for Most People

 
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LA
Cute little guys.  If scared he'd squirt blood out of his eyes.
 

For Starters.  We thought these guys were on the endangered list, but they seem to be showing up lately.  We assume you know they like ants.  Unfortunately, they want harvester ants (whatever those are).  They (over a dozen species of these odd little critters) come from our southwest states and shoot blood from their eyes when threatened.

LA
Basking in the light

Typical Lizards.  Horned lizards need extra warmth and places to hide.  They blend into rocky surfaces.  They flatten out and crawl under rocks when threatened.  Supposedly, their horns make them look more frightening and scare off potential predators.  They are for sure not fighters.  They barely wiggle when you pick them up.  But they scuttle right off when you put them back down.  They can move.  They just prefer not to.

LA 
Not at all argumentative

Community Guys.  Horned lizards get along fine with each other.  If you mix them with other species, these guys hang back at feeding time.  In the wild, they sit atop an ant hill and wait for their food to be delivered.  Other lizards will eat all their food, so keep them separate from other lizards.

LA
Not afraid of people

Friendly?  Not really friendly, these guys put up with you.  They do not like you.  They do not recognize you.  They do not know where their food comes from.  They just sit there waiting for it to be delivered.  Get with the program.  They never tip.

 

LA
Typical tails up posture

Attitude.  Most lizards with their tails in the air are ready to bust a gut to get out of there.  Horned lizards are just waiting for their food to be delivered.

LA
Trying to see those horns

Food.  Horned lizards prefer harvester ants.  They will eat crickets -- a food that walks right up to them.  Add a vitamin/calcium supplement of course.  Try some of our local ants if you can find an ant hill.  (Check out my front sidewalk.)

LA
Three lizards in this picture

Substrate.  Horned lizards dig.  The ground walnut shells in the picture above let them dig away to their hearts content.  Zach likes this substrate better because it costs more than sand.

Mick, Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue, TX, February 6, 2008
One point I would like to make in regards to the information that you do have up, is that ground walnut shell should not be used as a substrate for these lizards. It is an impaction hazard. I worry that a novice with a newly bought Horned Lizard might see this and go buy ground walnut or something worse. Most of us in the Horned Lizard "community" recommend play box sand from Home Depot or the like, which is closer
to what they live in out in the wild; they are also adapted to manage ingestion of small amounts of sand better. Thank you for your time and consideration.

A:  We stopped carrying the ground walnut shells shortly after I wrote the bulk of this page -- about four years ago.  Did you ever read the waning on the play box sand bags?  LA

LA
Happy little diggers.

LA
Even in a shallow substrate, horned lizards attempt to hide.

 

LA

LA
As long as you're avoiding horned toads, make sure you avoid the little guys.

LA
This must be a different species because they scuttle incredibly fast.

LA
As soon as you open  their cage door, these guys try to escape.

Last Words.  Horned lizards look nothing like toads.  Maybe the same color but certainly not the same shape.  You never see a tail on a toad.  Anyway, we think only lizard specialists should keep horned lizards.  But they are cute.  LA.
 

Mick, Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue, TX, February 5, 2008
I saw your page on Horned Lizards some years ago, and recently came across it again. I wanted to email you and ask if you would like some additional husbandry information; or if you deal in Horned Lizards, if you
would like to direct keepers of Horned Lizards to my discussion group for further assistance. I have a 26-page manual which covers Horned Lizard and general reptile husbandry. 
I am a Horned Lizard researcher, member of the Horned Lizard Conservation Society, and co-founder of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (Texas) www.freewebs.com/wichitafallsreptilerescue
I have provided husbandry information on Horned Lizards to the Montreal, Ft. Worth, and Nashville zoos. I have also recently been asked to present to the 2008 International Herpetological Symposium on Horned Lizards. So, if you keep Horned Lizards, or know anyone that does...I have a wealth of information on their husbandry for anyone who is interested. My discussion group for Horned Lizards is:
www.groups.yahoo.com/group/HornedLizards
I also sell harvester ants, their natural prey in the wild. Thank you,
http://www.allexperts.com/ep/704-83162/Reptiles/Mick.htm.

A:  I stopped selling them because so many people can't keep them successfully -- even with the harvester ants.  I'm adding your info to my horned lizard page.  Thanks. LA

Mick, Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue, TX, February 6, 2008
Sadly, that is true, which is one of the reasons I contacted you. Upwards of 90% of them will die in less than a year if the keeper is not very skilled with reptiles. I have advocated up to 10 years herp experience before someone tries one. Even the Montreal zoo, who did not take serious some of my warnings, killed 3 of their 6 Desert Horned Lizards in less than a year. They were planning to transfer the survivors to the Ft. Worth zoo, stating that these lizards were just too sensitive for them to continue keeping. 

Mick, August 18, 2012
I've spoken with you before a few years ago about your horned lizards page. Consistently this page of yours ranks pretty good in web search results, and I was wondering if I could park a link there with you for my ant sales page for a percentage or something?

Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue - website
Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue - facebook
The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation - facebook
Horned Lizards - discussion group

 

A:  I added your links to my Horned Lizard page.  No charge.  LA

 

Mick, August 20, 2012
Hey thanks! I appreciate it. I was more so wondering about the two specific pages I have where the ants can be found, which are here:

http://wichitafallsreptilerescue.webs.com/harvesterants.htm
https://sites.google.com/site/liveharvesterants/

Thanks for your help,

 

A:  Okay.  I also added your additional comments.  LA

 

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