“What kinds of horned lizards are there in Idaho?”
Horned lizards are sometimes called horned toads, and it’s easy to see why. With their plump bodies, short legs, and bumpy, scaly skin, you could easily mistake one for a toad if you didn’t see its tail!
But these interesting creatures are reptiles, not amphibians, and have fascinating characteristics that separate them from other animals. For example, they have the unique ability to shoot blood from their eyes!
Today, you will learn the 3 kinds of horned lizards found in Idaho!
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#1. Greater Short-Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma hernandesi
- 1.75 to 4.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloring is beige, tan, or reddish, speckled with white. There are large brown blotches on neck and sides.
- Horns are short and stubby, located on the back of the head and to each side.
Greater Short-Horned Lizards prefer to live in southeastern Idaho in shortgrass prairies and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Their habitat is generally semi-arid, with long dry spells and infrequent, but heavy rain.
Greater Short-Horned Lizard Range Map:
Ants are a primary food source for Greater Short-Horned Lizards, but they have a varied diet. They also eat grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, caterpillars, spiders, and even snails!
This species is one of only two types of horned lizards in Idaho that gives birth to live young!
And you may not believe this, but they can produce up to 48 babies in one birth!
#2. Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma douglasii
- 1.25 to 2.5 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- A single row of fringe scales lines the sides of the body.
The Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard is commonly found in southern Idaho in rocky terrain with pockets of fine, loose soil. It prefers open plains with sagebrush or open pine forests.
These horned lizards are more tolerant of colder temperatures than most other lizards. They are even able to live in mountainous regions at elevations of up to 11,000 feet!
Pygmy Short-Horned Lizard Range Map:
Pygmy Short-Horned Lizards are almost always found near ants, looking for their next meal! Ants are their primary source of food, and they often lie in wait outside colonies.
Its primary defense against predators is to bury itself in the soil with a “shimmying” motion, moving from side to side until its back is covered in sand! Check out the video below to see how they do it!
#3. Desert Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma platyrhinos
- 2.5 to 3.75 inches long from snout to vent. (Length does not include the tail)
- Coloration is brown, tan, reddish, gray, or black. Wavy, dark blotches dot the back and neck.
- Blunt snout and short horns.
As its name suggests, the Desert Horned Lizard prefers the arid climate of sandy flats and dunes in desert regions of southwestern Idaho. Areas with cactus, creosote, and saltbush are common homes for the Desert Horned Lizard.
Desert Horned Lizard Range Map:
Desert Horned Lizards have an interesting hidden talent – they’re good dancers!
They often perform mating dances that display intricate body movements, including head bobbing, weaving, and tail movements. While some lizards use body movement displays as a sign of aggression, Desert Horned Lizards use their moves most often to attract a mate!
One of the easiest ways to find a Desert Horned Lizard is to drive slowly in its habitat in the late afternoon. They’re often seen sunning themselves on the warm pavement!
Do you need additional help identifying horned lizards?
Try this field guide!
Which of these horned lizards have you seen in Idaho?
Leave a comment below!