Pssst .... Wanna Buy a Monitor Lizard?

During decades of rambling about on land and water I've been chased, harassed and/or nearly eviscerated, at last count, by 1,837 different species in the animal kingdom, including a grizzly bear in Alaska, runaway yaks in Nepal, a shark in Long Island Sound, a bull moose in Maine, numerous copperhead snakes, an angry bull, whiteface hornets, overly protective swans guarding their nests, a veritable kennel of dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to Rottweilers, dive-bombing terns, and once, by a chicken that ran after me for nearly a mile – what was THAT all about?

Had I been paying attention to police warnings earlier this summer I might have been even more apprehensive about animal attacks, considering that one of the most fearsome predators roamed near one of my regular running routes – a monitor lizard.

Authorities shot and killed the 3-4-foot-long reptile last week after a Ledyard resident called 911 to report an "alligator" was attacking chickens in her backyard coop.

The lizard apparently had escaped a month or more earlier from a home where it likely had been kept as a pet, prompting authorities to issue a BOLO (be on the lookout) for a nasty, Godzilla-like creature with lightning-fast reflexes, powerful jaws and a whipping tail. Though the critter had been spotted frequently around the eastern part of town, no one reported it missing – not surprising considering that monitors are illegal in Connecticut.

You wouldn't know this detail from the many ads offering monitor lizards for sale that popped up on my computer screen the other day when I researched the reptiles.

"Below is our list of available monitor lizards for sale. You can buy Savannah monitors, Nile monitors, Water monitors, as well as many other incredible species. Highly carnivorous with insatiable appetites, it's always an adventure feeding these lizards. There are very few reptiles as impressive, or as intelligent, as monitors. They are without question some of the most entertaining lizards in the world, and if you buy a monitor lizard from us, it is guaranteed to arrive alive and in excellent condition," one advertisement boasts.

Prices range from $25.99 for a baby Savannah monitor to $6,999.99 for a pair of black dragon water monitors.

Like many states Connecticut bans monitors because they are a threat to humans, pets and native wildlife. They are on a long list of "Category 2" animals that can't be privately owned, including alligators, cobras, vipers, rattlesnakes, pythons and anacondas. The list of "Category 1" animals banned except by licensed zoos and nature centers includes lions, tigers, leopards, wolves, bears and large primates.

Connecticut passed its law in response to the infamous 2009 chimp attack on a woman who sustained horrific injuries to her face and hands, and the legislation went into effect just as the mass shooting of a menagerie of exotic animals set loose by a deranged, suicidal man in Ohio made international headlines.

At that time I found it was almost as easy to buy a Bengal tiger as it is today to buy a monitor lizard, and wrote a blog with a headline similar to this missive.

The sad fact remains: People are repeatedly forced to pass laws to prevent what should be common sense: Nobody should keep wild, dangerous animals as pets.

Not a week goes by that some tragedy befalls an irresponsible pet owner or some unlucky bystander: two young boys crushed by a Burmese python that escaped from a pet store; leopards, lions and tigers mauling their handlers; a killer whale clamping onto a trainer's pony tail and pulling her to her underwater death.

We never seem to learn.

Monitor lizards apparently are brilliant escape artists, judging from various online reports. One woman described a terrifying encounter with a loose one in California, but then went on to ask a lizard dealer if one would be an appropriate pet for her young son.

The dealer said he carried many different types of monitor lizards, some measuring only 2 feet long, while others, such as the crocodile monitor, can grow to 16 feet. Most are carnivorous.

Some are untamable.

I think that's all you need to know.

What I find particularly disturbing is that some people find it entertaining to observe such predators devour the prey on which it must be fed. One online poster described the "glory" of "watching an aroused monitor lizard chasing a big male mouse around the cage."

What fun, for the whole family.

I'm sorry police had to shoot the hapless monitor lizard in Ledyard last week. I'm just as sorry they haven't found the owner.

But I'm not sorry the critter didn't dart out while I ran by one morning and try to clamp onto my leg.

I have enough trouble eluding dogs and chickens.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Fagin's Annual Gift Catalogue for the Discerning Outdoorsman and Outdoorswoman

How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...

Arduous Autumn

In spring we crawl out of our cocoons and celebrate bursting rejuvenation; in summer we play outside from dawn to dusk; during the dark, frigid winter we hunker down like hibernating bears – which leaves fall, when we try to set aside time...

Chain Saw? We Don't Need No Stinking Chain Saw…

So, did you hear that doctors have developed a new method of performing an appendectomy without using anesthesia? It’s exactly like the old operation, except it hurts like a son of a b.

You CAN Go Home Again: A Run Through My Old West Haven Stomping Grounds

Although for decades I’ve been living in a home surrounded by trees that is heated primarily by wood stoves, and I enjoy kayaking, mountain climbing, building stone walls, growing organic vegetables and many other active outdoor pursuits,...

Utah Rocks Part II: Kayaking Down The Colorado River

Propelled by a swift current on the Colorado River earlier this month, my son, Tom, and I gazed at red rock cliffs gleaming against an azure, near cloudless sky. The rustle of aspen and cottonwoods in a gentle breeze mingled with the rush of...

Utah Rocks: Adventures Among The Arches And The Rapids (Part I)

You know how it feels when you witness something so astonishingly exquisite and surreal it literally takes your breath away, and all you can do is gasp in amazement?

Oops. I Meant To Say, Whatever You Do, NEVER Try To Pose For A Selfie With Bear Cubs While Mama Grizzly Is Watching, And Other Corrections

• Alert readers have correctly pointed out a slight flaw in my instructions for the proper rock climbing command when you have unclipped from your rope. You should loudly announce, "Rappel off," not "On rappel."...

Use It Or Lose It: Trails Disappear If Nobody Hikes Them

Nature really hates a vacuum when it comes to paths.

Plunging Through Plum Gut And Bongo Sliding Through The Race In A Kayak: Maybe There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Fun

So a rabbi and a psychiatrist are kayaking in the ocean when a giant wave crashes over them and knocks the rabbi unconscious. The psychiatrist manages to pull the rabbi ashore, where he regains consciousness.

Once Again, Pink Gloves (Plus a Clever Signal) Help Save The Day At The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon

"On your left!" Phil Warner shouted from the bow of a tandem kayak, racing toward a buoy during the paddle leg of last Sunday’s Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass.

It's Swallow Time Again On The Connecticut River

Early Thursday evening was a magical time to paddle on the lower Connecticut River near Lyme.