Have any of you anglers or hikers in the great Montana outdoors ever experienced a chance encounter with a reclusive creature?

Seldom scene and not something you readily associate with the state's wildlife, it was once considered the second most abundant reptile along the Missouri River in Montana in the late 19th century, second only to rattlesnakes. Now it is considered a "Species of Greatest Inventory Need."

As they do a couple of times a year, and which we most recently shared just last fall with the message more targeted to hunters, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants those of you hiking and exploring Montana this spring and summer to be sure to take a break from scanning the horizon and look down at the ground once in a while. You might see one of eastern Montana’s rarely seen critters, the greater short-horned lizard, commonly known as a “horny toad.” And if you do, FWP would like to know about it.


Greater short-horned lizards are considered a Species of Greatest Inventory Need in Montana due to insufficient data on their population and distribution. FWP biologists say they have been conducting surveys in eastern Montana to try and determine status and distribution as well as fill in data gaps. But, their elusive nature and their camo-like coloration make them extremely difficult to locate.



  • Adult greater short-horned lizards are are most active during the warmer daylight hours.
  • Coloration is cryptic with the soil (blends in) and can vary by locality.
  • The broad, flattened body separates this lizard from the other three lizard species regularly found in Montana.
  • The head has a "heart-shaped" appearance when viewed from above.

Now that you are all toad-ally stoked to go find one, if you do happen to observe one anywhere in the state, please record the location, get GPS coordinates if possible, and note the date, number observed, and take a photo with something in the picture for scale if you can.

Observations can be reported to your local FWP biologist. And please, don't try to make it a pet!

Montana's 'Exotic Noncontrolled Species'

Here's a sample of some of the exotic animals that the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks consider "noncontrolled species" meaning they aren't prohibited unless it falls under Montana or Federal law. For more information about these species and other "exotic noncontrolled species" refer to the guidance from Montana Fish Wildlife, and Parks.

Gallery Credit: Ashley

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