Species Profile

Pygmy Short-horned Lizard

Scientific Name: Phrynosoma douglasii
Other/Previous Names: Pigmy Short-horned Lizard ,Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (British Columbia population)
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2018
COSEWIC Status: Extirpated
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: In Canada, this species is known only from historical records. Since the last assessment, more anecdotal observations have come to light, but there have been no confirmed records for over 50 years. The historical records are from a populated area in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, where new sightings would be expected if the species still existed in Canada.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Last reported in 1957. Designated Extirpated in April 1992. Status re–examined and confirmed in May 2000,  April 2007, and November 2018.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Extirpated
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Reasons for extirpation | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Pygmy Short-horned Lizard

Pygmy Short-horned Lizard Photo 1

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Description

The Pygmy Short-horned Lizard was recently recognized as a separate species. It is the smallest of the horned lizards, rarely exceeding 6 cm from its snout to vent. Compared to some other ornately armored horned lizards, the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard has relatively small horns on its head and body. It is often referred to (incorrectly) as a horned toad. All 13 species of horned lizards are confined to the arid and semi-arid portions of North and Central America. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Distribution and Population

The Pygmy Short-horned Lizard inhabits the Great Basin and surrounding areas from northern California and Nevada through eastern Oregon and Washington, most of southern and eastern Idaho and into the extreme south-central part of British Columbia, in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Habitat

A broad variety of habitats are used from deep-soiled desert basins to shallow-soiled slopes and ridges. Consistent features are well-drained sites with exposed ground and access to friable soils for burrowing, thermoregulating and foraging. The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys still appear to have suitable habitat for this species, and some of this habitat is currently protected. Parts of the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard’s range are over 2000 m above sea level. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Biology

Pygmy Short-horned Lizards give birth to up to 15 live young, unlike some other horned lizards that lay eggs. Sexual maturity in females usually occurs in their third year. Longevity is unknown but is at least five years in the wild. Like all temperate-zone reptiles, Pygmy Short-horned Lizards must hibernate through the winter, which they do in shallow burrows. The primary prey of all horned lizards is ants, especially the harvester ant. Other invertebrates, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and snails, are also eaten, most commonly by adults. Foraging starts after the lizards have warmed in the morning sun and continues until the heat of the afternoon when they seek refuge in shade or a burrow. Pygmy Short-horned Lizards have many potential predators, including birds, snakes, coyotes and weasels. The first line of defence is remaining motionless, to take advantage of their cryptic colouration, texture, and posture. If detected, the lizards can flee from slow moving predators or inflate their bodies and make intimidating gestures. Their horn-like projections are minor deterrents, but can be effective against predators that must swallow them whole. Some horned lizards are capable of shooting a stream of foul-tasting blood into the mouths of certain predators, but this behaviour has not been observed in Pygmy Short-horned Lizards. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Reasons for extirpation

Habitat loss has been extensive in the Okanagan Valley and to a lesser extent in the Similkameen Valley. Although this habitat loss is likely a contributing factor to the species’ extirpation, it appears that Pygmy Short-horned Lizards were already rare by the early 1900s. This rarity may have been a result of relatively recent colonization, trampling by many large herds of cattle driven through this narrow valley en route to the Cariboo goldrush, or severe population declines when extreme cold or prolonged winters with little snowfall caused mortality during hibernation. If the species were reintroduced, current potential threats would include extensive habitat loss, road mortality, and predation by native and exotic animals. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Pygmy Short-horned Lizard is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

11 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) in Canada (2007-08-30)

    The Pygmy Short-horned Lizard was recently recognized as a separate species. It is the smallest of the horned lizards, rarely exceeding 6 cm from its snout to vent. Compared to some other ornately armored horned lizards, the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard has relatively small horns on its head and body. It is often referred to (incorrectly) as a horned toad. All 13 species of horned lizards are confined to the arid and semi-arid portions of North and Central America.
  • COSEWIC Status Appraisal Summary on the Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) in Canada (2019-10-09)

    In Canada, this species is known only from historical records. Since the last assessment, more anecdotal observations have come to light, but there are no confirmed records for over 50 years. The historical records are from a populated area in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, and new sightings would be expected if the species still existed in Canada. Note: This COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on October 15th, 2018.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (2007-12-04)

    There have been no confirmed sightings in Canada in the past 50 years, although there have been anecdotal reports during that time.
  • Response Statement - Pygmy Short-horned Lizard (2020) (2020-01-07)

    In Canada, this species is known only from historical records. Since the last assessment, more anecdotal observations have come to light, but there have been no confirmed records for over 50 years. The historical records are from a populated area in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, where new sightings would be expected if the species still existed in Canada.

Recovery Strategies

Orders

  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007-08-30)

    2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2018 to 2019 (2019-10-09)

    Over the past year COSEWIC assessed a total of 56 wildlife species, 2 of which were assigned a status of not at risk. Of these 56, COSEWIC re-examined the status of 25 wildlife species; of these, the majority (80%) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 799 wildlife species in various risk categories including 356 endangered, 189 threatened, 232 special concern, and 22 extirpated (that is, no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 18 wildlife species have been assessed as extinct, 59 wildlife species have been designated as data deficient, and 199 have been assessed as not at risk.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act - Terrestrial Species (2008-03-10)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 25, 2008 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 27, 2009 for species undergoing extended consultations.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2020 (2020-01-07)

    COVID-19 and the consultations on the listing of species at risk As a result of the ongoing COVID 19 situation, it is not possible to have in-person meetings. Taking this into consideration, please note that consultation closing dates have been set for both the Normal and Extended consultations for the terrestrial species considered in this document. We will work to ensure that all the known, potentially affected parties have the opportunity to contribute to the consultations and that the consultation process is flexible and sensitive to the current context. If you wish to contribute, please submit your comments by April 2, 2021 for species undergoing normal consultations and by September 2, 2021 for species undergoing extended consultations. You may provide comments by email, letters, or through the online survey. The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 622 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments by May 7, 2020, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 7, 2020, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry website at: The Minister of the Environment's Response to Species at Risk Assessments. To respond to survey questions, please go to the survey page.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
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