Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Animals on the Ranch...Not What You Think

Part of the reason this blog is called “Ramblings from the Ranch” is because I like to ramble on about nothing in particular. And today I decided to ramble about…Horny Toads.

As kids on the Ranch, my brother and I loved hunting for and catching Horny Toads (official name is Phrynosoma or Horned Lizard). And before I get bombarded with hate mail or death threats from animal activists, we absolutely NEVER harmed one of these fascinating creatures. We were far too excited to find one to even think about hurting it.

They live in the semi-arid environment of western Oklahoma, as well as other arid/desert environments in the Southwest, in the loose sandy or loamy soil.

We loved catching them and holding them in our hands (very carefully so we wouldn’t get poked by the horns or spit at; they can shoot a stream of blood from the corner of their eye into the eyes or mouth of a predator).

We would find them among the tall tufts of prairie grass, hunting for food such as ants and other insects. And the strangest thing about them, which I have been unable to verify with another source, but I swear it’s true: we would rub our finger along the flat middle part of their forehead, and the lizards would completely relax in our hands. They would actually sit and warm up in the sun while we held them and rubbed their heads. I have no idea why, but it was way cool!

Horned Lizards are listed as a Category II species with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, meaning they are a native species, possibly threatened or vulnerable to extirpation (being destroyed), but insufficient research exists to change their status on the list.

If you have a chance to check one out, do so, but cautiously. They are harder to find these days, but the best time is in the morning or early afternoon when they are out sunning themselves. Lift them gently by their sides, don’t point them directly at your face so they won’t shoot blood at you, and watch out for those spikes! And be sure to let them go when you are done!!

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