Blainsville’s horned lizard… so unobtrusive on the landscape, it could easily be overlooked, unless one is actively looking. Even then, since these lizard populations have decreased dramatically, it would be difficult to find one in Griffith Park or parts west for that matter. However, small colonies still exist in these areas, thanks to several factors including larqe quantities of chaparral, sandy topsoil and a dry microhabitat.
Sarah began her discussion by posing the question: what constitutes a Species of Special Concern and why is it important? Per the CA Fish & Wildlife website, the criteria for this designation is simple: it’s a species, subspecies or distinct population of an animal (meaning fish, amphibian, reptile, bird or mammal) native to California that satisfies specific criteria. The Blainsville’s horned lizard was “overcollected” between the years 1885 and 1930. Over 115,000 of these lizards were grabbed in different locales and kept either as pets, sold on the market (pet stores), or killed/sold as souvenirs, so populations of these horned lizards were greatly diminished. (If you’re interested in the full list of species of concern, go to CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife)
Because the Blainsville’s primary food source is Harvester ants, and this ant species is under threat by invasive Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), there is a direct threat to the Blainsville’s lizard. The intrusion of Argentine ants was first recorded in California in 1907 and according to Sarah, these ants thrive due to a number of factors; they’re able to quickly establish large colonies, invade homes and spread rapidly across the region. They also disrupt native ant colonies (Harvester ants being one), pollinators, and even vertebrates.
Add to the mix – off-road vehicle use, habitat fragmentation and habitat loss and it becomes abundantly clear why the Blainsville’s horned lizard faces a world of threats.
Granted, these lizards are “adorable” but they should be left to their own devices, otherwise we may see them completely disappear from the landscape. And that would be a tragedy.