Gi­ant lizard that was on the loose cap­tured

‘We’re just re­lieved,’ res­i­dent who saw the 8-foot-long rep­tile says

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Wayne K. Roustan and Tonya Alanez South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

A gi­ant mon­i­tor lizard first spot­ted on the loose in a Davie neigh­bor­hood in Au­gust is back with its owner — com­fort­ing a lot of peo­ple who were leery when it was on the lam.

“I’m re­lieved,” said Zachary Lieber­man whose ini­tial sight­ings of the rep­tile more than two months ago launched an ex­ten­sive search for the ap­prox­i­mately 8-foot-long, 150 pound rep­tile.

“The whole com­mu­nity’s re­ally re­lieved be­cause peo­ple can fully en­joy the out­doors again and not have to fear that this thing might be out there lurk­ing or whether it would at­tack or get af­ter their chil­dren or a pet,” he said.

State wildlife agents, as­sisted by Davie po­lice, cap­tured the lizard Tues­day af­ter­noon — not far from where it had been re­peat­edly spot­ted — based on in­for­ma­tion a res­i­dent re­ported to the Ex­otic Species Hot­line.

“I wish I could say I helped catch it but I had a pre­mo­ni­tion it was caught,” Lieber­man said. “I was driv­ing down Grif­fin Road and I saw re­ally a lot of igua­nas out and I said to my­self, ‘I bet the lizard is out to­day.’”

Lieber­man and oth­ers had en­listed the help of trap­pers, hunt­ing dogs, and of­fi­cers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion to try to catch the mon­ster, which showed up in the Lieber­mans’ back­yard — in the 9000 block of West Tree Tops Court near the Pine Is­land Ridge Nat­u­ral Area — at least three times over the course of two weeks.

Lieber­man called the FWC again about 2 p.m. Tues­day when he saw all the igua­nas run­ning around the streets of his neigh­bor­hood.

“Lo and be­hold, she said to me, ‘This is crazy but we just caught it about 10 min­utes ago’” he said. “I was sur­prised but I had a pre­mo­ni­tion, and they grabbed it.”

State wildlife of­fi­cials con­firmed the Asian wa­ter mon­i­tor was a pet that will be re­turned to its owner who was is­sued a crim­i­nal ci­ta­tion for the lizard’s es­cape.

“In this in­stance, the pet owner came for­ward and pro­vided us with tips about the an­i­mal’s be­hav­ior that ul­ti­mately helped our bi­ol­o­gists cap­ture it,” said Sarah Funck, in a FWC state­ment.

The FWC has re­stricted per­sonal own­er­ship of Burmese pythons, green ana­con­das, Nile mon­i­tors and other species con­sid­ered harm­ful if they es­cape cap­tiv­ity. Per­mits are not re­quired to pos­sess wa­ter mon­i­tor lizards as per­sonal pets, but own­ers must meet caging re­quire­ments un­der the Florida Ad­min­is­tra­tive Code.

“It’s been a process but we’re just re­lieved that it’s fi­nally caught,” Lieber­man said.

“Bam­boo,” he added. “Its name is Bam­boo.”

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