Don’t look now, but you’re being monitored!

Don’t look now, but you’re being monitored!
© September 9, 1994 – Warren Paul Harris


It’s not every day that you look out your back door and see a 2-1/2 foot Monitor Lizard meandering along your fence line, but that’s just exactly what happened yesterday morning. Thursday started out like most weekdays. My wife prepared for work and left on schedule (around 7:30), and I proceeded to read the paper over my morning coffee prior to commencing the days’ activities. However, Thursday took an interesting departure from the “usual” at just about the 2nd-cup-of-coffee point.

Savannah Monitor Lizard

Savannah Monitor Lizard

I was standing at the sliding glass doors leading onto our back deck, leisurely taking in the view of the rustic that backs up to our house, when something unusual caught my attention. Out of the left corner of my eye I noticed movement. Not your garden variety bird or squirrel type movement, mind you, but something much larger and more streamlined (and non-indigenous). This definitely merited closer inspection. I stepped out onto the deck and couldn’t quite believe my eyes. No more than 15 feet away was a large, slow-moving light gray lizard. He was methodically making his way along our fence line toward a 3 foot rock retaining wall.

It occurred to me that this was definitely not your native blue belly or skink on steroids, but rather, someone’s exotic “pet”, out for a little neighborhood stroll. Fortunately, the backyard was still in shadow, and fairly cool, so our cold-blooded visitor was moving at much less than top speed. I thought it might be prudent to contain him so that he didn’t wind up in the woods where he would make a nice lunch for the larger predators, so I made a quick dash in search of a large box. I found just the item stored under the house and raced back to find our unwanted guest doing his best to climb the retaining wall. Prodding him gently with the rubber telephone antenna redirected his attention from the task at hand just long enough for him to swell up to roughly twice his previous size and hiss menacingly until I left him alone. Not needing to be told most things more than once, I decided to wait him out and see where he was headed, reasoning that if he elected to stay where he was, he’d be OK until someone came for him. So much for planning. About two minutes later he resumed his attempt to scale the rock wall, so I slid the box up close, grabbed the thick part of his tail firmly and gently plopped him into the box.

It seemed like a good idea to find someone to baby-sit the little escape artist until the owners could be found, so I looked up the humane society phone number and gave them a call. The lady on the phone, initially incredulous, asked me if it could possibly be an Iguana, to which I answered “No, not enough decoration”. As I recall, they’re also quite a bit more colorful as a rule, but then I’m not exactly an expert on reptiles. After discussing the details, she asked me to keep an eye on our visitor, and she would dispatch someone to retrieve him as soon as possible.

Well, by now the backyard was starting to heat up, and figuring that our guest would be getting just a bit more active as the temperature increased, I moved him into the kitchen where I could keep him in a relatively dark and quiet location until his escort arrived. He spent most of the day trying occasionally to escape from the box, but was generally a well-behaved house guest.

It turns out that he’s a Savannah Monitor, according to the owner of Reptile Sales in San Rafael, and apparently well taken care of. He’s now resting comfortably under a heat lamp at the Marin Humane Society, no doubt wondering where his “mother” is, so if you’re missing a really adventurous and entertaining “baby” Monitor, now you know where to look.

Author’s note: As a result of the media circus that surrounded his retrieval, our house guest was reunited with his owner and is assumed to be content at home once more.

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