Oklahoma City filmmaker goes searching for the Texas horned lizard

Documentary to be shown Saturday at Harkins Theater in Bricktown as part of deadCENTER Film Festival
by Ed Godfrey Published: June 2, 2012
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Where did the horny toad go?

It's not a bar joke, but the name of an Oklahoma City resident's film that will be shown Saturday at Harkins Theater in Bricktown as part of the 12th annual deadCENTER Film Festival.

Stefanie Leland's 74-minute wildlife documentary examines the decline of the Texas horned lizard in Oklahoma and the southwestern United States.

Leland, 32, hopes the film not only will educate viewers about the demise of the Texas horned lizard but “open up the idea of conservation of our native wildlife.”

Growing up in the small western Oklahoma town of Canute, Leland always had a passion about critters.

She first earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Southwestern Oklahoma State University before pursuing a career in film making.

She has merged both worlds, filming public service announcements on the environment and a documentary for the Sierra Club before embarking on her first feature film about those prehistoric looking lizards.

“People are fascinated with them because of their appearance,” Leland said. “They look like miniature dinosaurs. There are no other lizards like them in the United States.”

As a kid, Leland remembered picking a Texas horned lizard on her way home from school and bringing it home as a pet. Her mother made her return the lizard to the wild.

Leland got the idea for the documentary three years ago when she and her friends were discussing how it had been 20 years since they had seen any horned lizards.

“I hadn't thought about them in years,” Leland said. “You just don't hear about them anymore.”

So Leland went searching for those spiny little creatures that mesmerized her as a child.

“I just went out looking,” she said. “I really didn't know how to find them. I just learned.”

In her film, Leland interviewed more than two dozen biologists, researchers and ordinary citizens about Texas horned lizards.

What she discovered — along with some colorful horned lizard tales such as Old Rip, a legendary Texas horny toad, and how the lizards really do squirt blood from their eyes when frightened — is that they are disappearing from some places.


by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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