I saw my first short-horned lizard on March 31 in the forest at the Oak Flats recreation area in the Cibola National Forest. The temperature was in the 50s and the ground is now snow-free and dry for the most part. These lizards are now up and active again. Ants and other insects are also becoming more common now, too, so the lizards have food sources available.

This lizard has a larger range than any other lizard in North America, living in dry habitats ranging from prairie grasslands to pine and fir forests, including rocky and sandy soils. Females are larger than males, reaching 6 inches total length, and give birth to live young, sometimes producing more than 45 offspring.

First sighting of 2020. Photo by James Taulman.

They primarily eat ants but also take other insects, normally waiting until prey approach them before striking. Their patient, stationary behavior makes them good subjects for photography.

This species is characterized by short spines extending back from the head on each side and a row of white spines fringing the sides of the body. The back has two rows of darker brown patches. Males show an enlarged area at the base of the tail. Though the lizard is tolerant of cold weather and can be found in mountains up to 9,000 feet, they do hibernate through the coldest winter months.

Photos taken at Oak Flat recreation area, Cibola National Forest, Tijeras, NM. Nikon P900 camera.