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Posted by W von Papinešu on September 03, 2002 at 09:40:06:
NEWS 8 (Austin, Texas) 01 September 02 Fifth-graders help scientists study the decline of horned lizard
The Texas Horned Lizard or Horny Toad was once common throughout most of the state. But in the past 30 years, the state reptile has nearly disappeared.
Scientists have now turned to some fifth-graders for answers.
In the quiet town of Lawn, near Abilene, with less than 500 people, a group of fifth-graders from Jim Ned Lawn Elementary are about to get some exciting news.
"Everyone knows the essay contest that we tried out for and wrote? Well we got a notice that you won," declares teacher Jana Bradley.
"It was on my answering machine and I played it about 6 times then I called my principal and I said I think we won the contest and then I played it about 6 more times."
The essay was part of a contest organized by Texas Parks and Wildlife to gain widespread awareness of the official state reptile.
There were more than 200 entries from 44 counties. Bradley's students interviewed local biologists, meteorologists and family members.
Once common throughout most of the state, the Texas Horned Lizard, or Horny Toad, has nearly disappeared. Now on the state's threatened species list, scientists hope these essays will help them understand what is happening to this popular reptile.
"We used to catch them all the time and play with them and put fingernail polish on them so when we let them go we would know if we caught them again. Now you can't find them anywhere hardly," parent Gayle Cook said.
Kirby Carrol of Texas Parks & Wildlife leads a group discussion and asks why the horned toad's population is going down. Answers include the use of pesticides to kill fire ants, which are the horned toad's main food source and the destruction of clumped grass, the toad's habitat.
The essay winners won a field trip to the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area near Fredericksburg to learn about another species, the Mexican Free-tailed bat.
"I think I'd love to continue to gather the remembrances of horned lizards and encourage people to send those in and encourage kids to really rigorously kinda record this information for us before it's gone," said TPWD Essay Coordinator Lee Ann Linam.