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Reptiles of Washington

Phrynosoma douglassii, Short-horned lizard

Description. Short-horned lizards are relatively flat, round lizards with short, stubby horns above the eyes and around the back of the head. They have many small, triangular fringes along the sides of the body. Short-horned lizards vary in color from tan to reddish to brown, with some large dark blotches and sometimes small light and dark flecks. Their color usually matches the color of the soil and rocks on which they live. Large adults can be about 10 cm (4 inches) long, but most specimens are smaller.

Distribution (GAP Analysis map)  Short-horned lizards range widely throughout central and eastern Washington. Outside Washington, the short-horned lizard occurs widely throughout the west, except for southern Nevada and most of California, and in parts of northern Mexico.

Habitat. These lizards live in a variety of dry habitats, including sagebrush, grassland, and open woodlands. They occur on a variety of soil types, including rocky soils, but seem to prefer areas with some loose or sandy soil.

Cool Biology Facts. Most horned lizards eat mainly ants, but the short-horned lizard also eats many other small invertebrates. When disturbed by predators, horned lizards occasionally squirt blood from the eyes for distances of up to 2-3 feet.

Conservation status. Short-horned lizards have a wide range in Washington, but are rarely found and may be uncommon. They are subject to habitat loss due to human development and agriculture.

Phrynosoma douglassii, Short-horned lizard
Phrynosoma douglassii, Short-horned lizard
Photo by Brad Moon