Fort Worth Zoo Celebrates Release of 1,000th Texas Horned Lizard Into the Wild

Scientists have spent decades working to bring the "horned toad" back from the brink.

Texas horned lizards used to be everywhere in Texas. Commonly known as horned frogs, they were once so rampant on the football field at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, that they were adopted as the school's mascot.

Sadly, though they were once common throughout the Lone Star State, the horned lizard is now listed as a threatened species. Concerned for the fate of small-but-mighty reptile, the Fort Worth Zoo has been working to breed and release them back into the wild since 2001.

Baby Texas Horned Lizard
MCT/Getty Images

After decades of hard work, the zoo hit a major milestone this week as it released its 1,000th horned lizard into the wild.

On Thursday, the Fort Worth Zoo, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and TCU teamed up to release a total 204 captive-raised hatchlings into the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, a nature reserve run by the TPWD.

According to Fort Worth Magazine, the baby horned lizards—which weigh about a gram each—were tagged with harmonic radar tag so scientists can track their location. As the lizards grow and shed their skin, the tags fall off, so researchers periodically replace them. It's a labor of love scientists hope will pay dividends in the near future.

Nathan Rains, a TPWD diversity biologist, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the goal of the project is to determine the likelihood of restoring the lizard population to where it once was.

"We'll never be able to restore them to where they used to occur across the state, but if we can restore a few populations and put them in a vicinity where people can see them, I think that would be a pretty big deal," Rains said.

Good luck little ones!

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