Reptiles/Horned lizard


Look I know you only want hard questions.... But I just brought a horned lizard home from my cabin. I built him a shelter made of sandy dirt and some bedding leaves. I just want advice overall on how to take care of him/her. I would really like to see it live and I'm really sorry I took it away from its home.

Well, you're in luck because you took a Phrynosoma from the wild, and that MAKES IT a hard question. You just took one of the most difficult to keep alive species of reptile there is.

“Horned lizards are among the most difficult lizards to keep in captivity because they have specialized dietary and thermal requirements, and they are susceptible to disease.” -Dr. Richard Montanucci, professor of herpetology (emeritus, Clemson), & author

"Whenever captive, Phrynosoma will rarely survive if not given a regular offering of live ants". Dr. Wade Sherbrooke, author of "Introduction to Horned Lizards of North America" and horned lizard researcher at the Southwest Research Station, Portal, AZ.

"Unfortunately these lizards are frequently collected from the wild for pets. They usually die in captivity because of a lack of proper husbandry. This is an incredibly delicate lizard, subject to stresses which include handling. For this reason, it should be viewed only, and not handled at all." David Cooper of the North Carolina Herpetological Society.

You're in the right place anyway, because I'm a known authority in this area of Phrynosoma husbandry, and as a specialized rehabber. My page can be found at If the capture location is known to within a few hundred yards, my best advice to you is to return it to the wild morning or evening ASAP, rickety tick. This is not one of those kinds of reptiles that you can capture and make a nice pet of very easily and via cliff notes. I know. I wrote a 75 page care manual for a zoo on them, and I have kept 6 of the 8 native US species for 12 years now. This is strictly an EXPERT level lizard, and they require a massive amount of time and food resources compared to other reptiles. They need daily care that most others do not.

First thing though, you will need to follow the instructions like everyone else. That means a photo for state of health and species ID, and the background info requested in the instructions. Unless you care enough to see it live to find it's original capture point and return it, which is frankly my advice.  


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YOU WILL GET A REJECTION OF YOUR QUESTION IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO QUESTIONER IN FULL!. I am primarily here to assist with health concerns. I am here for the more difficult questions. Not for questions that you could research & easily find the answer yourself. My standards are that you provide DETAILED and RELEVANT background history on your pet before you ask me any question about it other than GENDER or ID. The requested information is in the instructions to questioner. Failure to answer each of those questions to provide that background, will result in your question being rejected. I can answer questions related reptile husbandry, identification (esp. in Texas and the SW), legal aspects, and advanced level medical care. I am the director of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (TX), a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles, a founding member of The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation, a subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service,, educational content contributor to, and a Dept of State Health Services accredited animal control instructor (CE) for reptile handling. I do most of my own veterinary care in-house, including minor surgery and necropsy. I am most experienced in Chelonia with box turtles and common smaller tortoises; and in Squamata with everything from Anoles, Geckos, Beardies, and Monitors, to venomous snakes. I am most known for my expertise with horned lizards (Phrynosoma). With snakes, my primary expertise is in Crotalids (rattlesnakes), but I can answer a broad range of questions about various species. I am not aware of any reptile related question that I would not be able to provide some reasonable answer for. I have a direct style and may tell you something you did not want to hear; but the welfare of the animal comes FIRST with me, and I will always reflect that position in my answer, despite how it might make you feel.


I am a non-academic herpetologist with 25+ years reptile experience, and I am an accredited Texas Dept of State Health Services Animal Control Instructor for Reptiles (CE). I am a reptile rescuer, reptile wildlife rehabilitator, and subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service, wikivet, and article/journal content contributor to Lafebervet. I have medical and scientific resources available, and I perform in house reptile veterinary care for my rescues. I am not a vet, but I read from the same materials and have had to correct quite a few in the past. The average vet is not well versed with reptile physiology and medical treatments.

Animals that I am currently caring for, or have significant rehabilitation and husbandry experience with: Horned Lizards (5 species); Eastern and Western Box Turtles; Painted, RES, YBS, Soft-Shell, and Cooter aquatic turtles; Russian Tortoises; Fire Bellied Toads; Fire Bellied Newts; Ornate Horned Frogs; Green Iguanas; Desert Iguanas; Spiny Lizards; Long Nosed Leopard Lizards; Anoles; Racerunners; Collared Lizards; Bullsnakes; Eastern Ratsnakes; Great Plains Ratsnakes; Kingsnakes; Gartersnakes; Cornsnakes; Boas; Pythons; Bearded Dragons; Water Dragons; Massasauga Rattlesnakes; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Leopard, Mediterranean, Golden, Indo-Pacific, African White-Spotted Geckos; Savannah Monitors; Jeweled Curly-Tailed Lizards; Long-Tailed Grass Lizards; Fox Squirrels; Deer Mice; Hispid Cotton Rats; Merriam's Pocket Mice; Eastern Cotton-Tails; Blue Bar racing pigeon; Budgies; Asian Forest Scorpions.


Co-Founder & Director: Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Founder: The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation

Publications contributor. The Horned Lizard Husbandry Manual - self published 75 pages of care information on genus Phrynosoma.

Wikipedia entry "Horned Lizards" - contributed to a majority of the content., and various reptile related forums and email lists under the handles "fireside3" and PhrynosomaTexas".

My hands-on field, rehabilitation, and captive husbandry experience beats a PhD any day of the week. I am also a state accredited animal control instructor for reptile handling.

Past/Present Clients

I was requested to provide my care manual on the Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), for the Montreal zoo. My manual is also used by several other zoological institutions in N. America. I also teach reptile education to summer camps, and instruct wildlife rehabilitators on live saving and rehab techniques with reptiles.

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