The Little Critter Observes The Odd Humans
Pam spotted him first. She didn’t know at the time that he was a desert horned lizard, commonly called a horned toad or horny toad. She just knew he was darling.
“We have a baby horned toad watching us,” she advised. “Don’t step on him.”
Not that we had any idea whether the little lizard was male or female. (Unlike the pregnant adult female, see photo above, that showed up a year later.)
Pam and I and our friend Harvey were taking yet another look at the camp trailer’s dysfunctional refrigerator at the time. The propane supply is definitely adequate, since the kitchen stove works just fine. Unfortunately, we’ve been living on canned food and expensive trips to town for ice to cool a few things in a picnic style cooler because the fridge is on the fritz. With recent daytime temperatures reaching triple digits and no money on hand to buy fuel to run the generator to power the electric-only air conditioner, it’s not such a fun ride.
To add insult to injury, the refrigerator was working just fine until we moved out here to the southeastern Arizona desert, little more than a mile from the Mexican border. Not that we would trade places with anyone else in the world. We love it here; whatever price we have to pay is worth it. Anyway, I’d seen two of the larger regal horned lizards (or else they were greater short-horned lizards, not sure which), one right where we were standing, the other out near where our driveway reaches the (dirt) street. Additionally, speedy little desert grassland whiptail lizards are plentiful and provide many sightings, one of which is documented in my Hub titled One Small Pond And A Diving Lizard.
But this was a new-to-us variety of lizard, perhaps three inches long not counting the tail, and cute as all getout. A horned toad, no question, but of what variety?
Research on every one of the lizard species we’ve identified so far on our acreage indicates their primary diet consists of ants, ants, and more ants. Some will tackle small beetles and even larvae, but without ants, our reptilian friends could not survive. Although we didn’t know just what species this curious critter might be, the chances were good it had been out hunting for lunch when it encountered the unusual herd of three giant humans. As fascinated as we were with the little guy (or gal), he (or she) was equally fascinated with us.
Okay, I’m going to refer to him as a he. If I happen to catch him in the act of laying eggs later on in the year, I’ll change the gender designation then.
The mutual fascination kept Harvey, Pam, and Guy (the lizard) all in holding pattern while I retrieved the digital camera from the camper and deleted several existing snapshots from memory to make room for Little Guy the Lizard. Even after all of that, he hadn’t moved a muscle, posing patiently until I finished with the photo shoot, not getting at all nervous as I moved around to get pictures from different angles.
It didn’t feel like he was being a ham or seeking celebrity status, just being polite. Didn’t even seem to bother him that we were calling him a horned toad instead of a horned lizard.
Once I was done, I turned away to talk with Harvey for a moment about the refrigerator problem. When I turned back, Guy was Gone, just like that.
We never did get the propane burner to light, but I couldn’t wait to identify Little Guy. After writing a Hub titled Google AdSense and Gold, Gold, Gold! that had been percolating in my head unmercifully until I let it out, it was time to Google and…yep, no, not that one…okay…yeah, that’s him! Our new friend is a desert horned lizard and yes indeed, desert horned lizards live on ants. Guess it’s a good thing this place is kind of one oversized ant farm. There are ant holes and hills all over the place, sort of a lizard buffet as it were.
A bit of reading on the desert horned lizard revealed that Guy is not a baby; this species does not grow much longer than 2.75 inches (snout to vent) even as adults. He’s Pam’s baby, though. Every living being on this land is her baby with the exception of the flying ants that sneak in through our screened windows at night to drive us both crazy while I’m typing bits about horned toads that are not really toads.
It would be nice to discover a flying desert horned lizard that feeds on those flying ants, you know, just to keep their numbers down a little better. But then, you can’t have everything.