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Biologists ask Montanans to be on the lookout for lizards

A Greater Short-Horned Lizard
Allan Schmierer
A Greater Short-Horned Lizard sits perched on a log.

Wildlife biologists are asking those in the outdoors to watch for the Greater Short-Horned Lizard, commonly called the horny toad. It doesn’t look like a toad… or a lizard.

“Obviously, as its name implies, it's got little bumps and horns on its head and bumpy scales on its back. Much wider than the common sagebrush lizard, much flatter. It’s unmistakable to anything else out there. ”

Mark Kloker is a Communication and Education Program Manager for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

They are asking the public to help fill in gaps in their data by reporting sightings of the Great Short-Horned Lizards.

“We’re trying to get just a really good idea of their overall distribution and, and how many of them there are out there,” Kloker said.

"The key to seeing one is keeping your eyes… and your expectations low. I've spent my whole life in Eastern Montana and I've probably only seen a dozen in all that time and part of it is because they blend in really well with the soil. They figure these females may only wander no more than 30 feet in radius in their whole life. And that could be several years old. So they don't really move around much. So that also makes it challenging."

They can fit in the palm of your hand. So, it can be tempting to take one home.

Kloker advises, “I don’t think it’s a problem to pick them up, check them out and get good pictures with them, but please don’t take them home as pets. Even folks that are experts have a very difficult time keeping them alive in captivity. They mostly feed on ants, we just definitely recommend folks just leaving them where they are."

Great horned lizards can live anywhere in Montana, but are most prevalent in the central and eastern part of the state.

Click here for more information on lizard spotting.

Video and article credit go to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.