ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque locals have been making noise on social media about the lack of horned toads in the city limits. Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish confirm that the numbers have been declining.
Before we tackle what made the horned toads leave, their actual name is “horned lizard.” Darren Vaughan is the communications director for the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish and says a main factor in the declining horned lizard population in the state’s major cities is population changes. “A lot of that is caused by like, people using poison on ants; which, if you poison the ants, that takes away one of the primary food sources for those horned lizards,” said Vaughan. He also notes that vehicle traffic is an issue for the horned lizard, along with being prey for feral cats and dogs.
The good news is, that horned lizards are still around, they’ve just moved on to where these are not problems for them. “If you go someplace like, say Petroglyph National Monument when it’s warm outside, you’ve got a good chance of seeing the roundtailed horned lizard; and also, if you go up in the Sandias or Manzanos, you’re likely to see the greater short-horned lizard up there,” said Vaughan.
As of now, NM Game & Fish is not focusing a great deal on the horned lizard but, Vaughan says, the ABQ BioPark is currently wrapping up a project on how to captively raise Texas horned lizards. “It seems like that’s been fairly successful so far, [the BioPark] is saying that it has potential for them to be able to reintroduce some of those [lizards] they are breeding in captivity to help boost some of the struggling populations,” said Vaughan.
If anyone sees a horned lizard out and about, it’s important to leave them be. “They’re legally protected here in New Mexico. You can still go out and observe them..but do not pick them up. It can definitely have a negative impact on them,” Vaughan says. “It’s definitely a ‘look but don’t touch’ situation.”