Where did the Horned Lizards go?
edited: Monday, July 14, 2008
By Doug W Hiser
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, July 14, 2008
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News Article Essay in the Galveston Daily Newspaper
Where did the Horned Lizards Go?
It wasnít that long ago when horned lizards crawled all over the Texas Gulf Coast. I miss them. My kids donít miss them because they never knew they even existed. The only horned lizard they know about is the mascot of Texas Christian University.
Iím not that old and I have seen the Houston-Galveston area, without remorse, drive many species into extinction and cripple the environment. The wildlife abundant fields and forests of my youth are gone, replaced by subdivisions, strip malls, and a Wal-Mart every five miles. Why didnít we save any of the natural habitats? Why didnít we care that the last Red Wolf is gone forever. I saw them alive once when I was a kid and last week I saw one again, mounted by a taxidermist in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The small pockets of woods around Galveston County are home to the last remaining creatures, the ones that were adaptable enough to live near people: raccoons, opossums, squirrels, cottontail rabbits. The reptiles didnít fare as well. Snakes and turtles that were everywhere in the Ď60ís and 70ís are a rare find now. Even the species and number of birds in the area has declined.
Is there some other reason besides greed, that for each subdivision that is built, the land has to be scraped down to the barest soil, removing all vegetation, cutting down every bastion of foliage, every last standing old tree? Each time that happens we lose more plants, more animals, more of the cycle of the very heart of the earth. It is like taking a rough jagged edge of a rusty razor blade and scraping over the skin on our arms, again and again, until all hair and flesh are removed and replacing it with an artificial covering. We are reshaping our Countyís surface, replacing trees and root systems, blackberries and Indian Paintbrushes, cattails and ribbon snakes, box turtles and leopard frogs, Pileated woodpeckers and scissor-tailed flycatchers, armadillos and white tailed deer, velvet ants and even love bugs, with new species that moved in from somewhere else. The new species are clinging and adapting to our area like a virus clings to the hope that no antibiotic can stop their growth and replication.
Mediterranean geckos, monk parakeets, and fire ants have replaced our native species which in turn upset the delicate balance of our ecosystem on the Texas Gulf Coast. I am not a biologist or a zoologist, not even a botanist. I do not study ecology or natural habitats. I am only an artist and an author. I am only a writer of fiction books like The Honeybee Girl, Tropical Calypso and many others. I am only an art teacher, drawing and painting, remembering the things Galveston County has destroyed. If I were a wealthy man I would use the finances to save as much wilderness left in our area to bring back the things we have lost.
I donít know what to do about saving what little remains, and it is very little, I only know that I miss the Red Wolf and the Horned Lizard, and my children never got to hear the wolves howling or hold a Horny Toad and feel it swell with air as it inflates its body for protection. I remember seeing a bobcat resting in an old tree and that memory burns within my soul, forever painted unlike the dozens of bobcats I have seen in zoos. Encountering wild animals native to the environment is the purest joy and will never be the same as watching them rest on concrete in an enclosed cage. The human imagination wants to look into the woods and fields and ďknowĒ that our native animals still thrive there, unseen but alive. We know when we look at the small patches of trees that remain in Galveston County that there are no Red Wolves hiding in the shadows, digging dens for their pups. Those last remaining pockets of trees and foliage hold no mystery any more and their days are numbered when those trees too will be scraped from the earth and replaced by concrete and prefab walls and man-made lakes with spewing fountains of dyed blue water.
I still live in Galveston County, because this is where my family is and this is where I teach school, but when I look around at the daily destruction of the last remaining woods and wild places I want to move away from this barren place of concrete and traffic lights. It is a sad thing to watch the flesh of our home being scraped away and all we now can see are patches of the skeletal bones protruding from a once prosperous surface. Someday when I retire I think I will have to run away from this place that once was a paradise and retreat to someplace where wolves still howl and bobcats recline on the limbs of ancient trees, and deer stroll through thick woods far enough away from the sounds of cars rushing by on vast rivers of concrete.