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My first introduction to a Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) occurred about fifteen years ago.
Upon arriving at work one morning I found a huge lizard, which didn't move as I reached to pick it up. I brought it to a veterinarian in our building who identified it as a Horned Toad. When I questioned the fact that this Horned Toad was nearly a foot long, and half of that was tail, my free vet visit promptly ended.
After calls to several other vets, one identified it as a Texas Spiny Lizard and added that it must be ill or injured. I released it immediately, but that brief acquaintance was the beginning of a great infatuation with these gorgeous lizards.
A short time later I bought a house in an older neighborhood where there are a lot of large trees. To my delight, Texas Spiny Lizards were everywhere - dashing up trees, darting into the shrubs, and sunbathing on the deck.
Let me share with you what I've learned about them.
- The Texas Spiny Lizard is an Iguanid lizard and in the same subfamily as Horned Lizards (Phrynosomatidae).
- They are found from the Red River south into northern and eastern Mexico.
- They are active during the day (diurnal) and are fast-moving, agile tree climbers. They are primarily arboreal, but will bask on ground, rocks, buildings and fences.
- Adults attain a length of up to 11". They are a very spiny, slender lizard with long tails and long clawed toes. Dorsal ground color is light tan/grey to reddish-brown with dark broken lines. Adult males have brilliant blue patches on their sides.
- They are sexually mature at one year and are prolific breeders. Mating occurs in early spring and eggs are laid through the summer, sometimes as many as four times a year. Eggs are laid in the soil, with clutch sizes averaging 14 eggs. The eggs hatch in 50-60 days.
- They are voracious eaters - consuming insects, spiders and sometimes small lizards.
Texas Spiny Lizards are very shy - often the rustle of leaves accompanied by a glimpse of movement is the only clue that you've approached one. I've provided many hiding places in my yard and avoided pesticides and fertilizers - my reward has been an abundance of these wonderful little guys.
I hope you have the good fortune of being host to the Texas Spiny Lizard and are lucky enough to find one sunning on your window sill as you enjoy your morning coffee.