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In Building 3’s Environmental Management lab at Tinker Air Force Base, researcher Victor Bogosian fashions a tiny elastic harness and transmitter on a recent catch. He’ll paint the transmitter and harness brown, attach the transmitter with temporary adhesive, then release the lizard back into the grasslands on Tinker.Transmitters must be replaced every 10 weeks before batteries inside fail. The lizards don’t stray far, but their camouflage and small size make locating them a learned feat for researchers.Victor Bogosian, a Ph.D. researcher from Southern Illinois University, and student conservation associates Katie Hietz and Jeffrey Ackley move slowly through the high grasses behind Tinker Air Force Base housing using the beeping of their transponder to locate tagged Texas horned lizards. The pea-sized transmitters each tagged lizard wears help scientists learn about the animal listed as a state species of “special concern,” a protection researchers want to keep from moving to “threatened” or “endangered.”

Where have all the horny toads gone?

Officials at Tinker, students study dietary habits, movements of lizards

For baby boomers growing up in the Southwest, horned lizards, or "horny toads" as they were often called, were a common sight in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Nowadays those same baby boomers scratch their heads and wonder why they never see one anymore.

Horned lizards are not on the threatened or endangered species list because there are still fairly substantial numbers of horned lizards farther west, but Oklahoma and Texas have enacted protections for them. In fact, the one species known to exist here, the Texas horned lizard, is the state reptile of Texas.

Oklahoma has a year-round closed season on Texas horned lizards, according to Mark Howery, a wildlife diversity biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"(That) means that it is unlawful for you or me or any individual to knowingly kill a horned lizard or to capture one and keep it as a pet ... or to sell and trade horned lizards," Howery said. "You have to leave them out in the habitat where they are. But it doesn't have any of the restrictions of a threatened or endangered listing."

The state law went into effect on July 1, 1992, after the Legislature approved a measure passed by the state wildlife commission.

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