ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) — A monitor lizard on the lam in North County has been captured, but experts say there is another one loose in the area.
Friday evening, reptile expert Susan Nowicke captured the lizard, now named "Esco," in an Escondido pond, swimming for nearly an hour for the chance to secure the animal. Neighbors had previously spotted the lizard several times near the ponds off Waterhouse Glen for about a year.
"Esco" however, is three-feet-long while the one being sought was four-feet-long, according to Nowicke. So Nowicke says there is at least one more monitor lizard still roaming the area.
Monitor lizards are considered dangerous, packing a "nasty bite" that can lead to significant injuries. If their muscular tails whip a child or animal, it can lead to severe bruising or welts.
Nowicke believes "Esco" and the other lizard either escaped or were turned loose by their owners. She says as babies monitor lizards are small and manageable pets. But six months later, they grow exponentially in size and become very difficult to handle. Most of the monitor lizards at her museum and education center, EcoVivarium off South Juniper St. in Escondido, are captured strays or surrenders.
"They're thinking, 'Oh, it's going to grow up and be my best friend. It's just like a dog.' No, it's not a dog, it's a wild animal," Nowicke said.
The lizards can grow up to seven and a half feet long, though the one captured in Escondido was only about three feet long. While the lizards are larger than most wildlife living in neighborhoods, it's difficult to catch because it can hide in trees, ponds, and even storm drains.
Nowicke has taken "Esco" into the EcoVivarium and has him under a 30-day quarantine. She hopes to find the other lizard soon, to end what she calls "Monitor Watch."
The lizard isn't the first noteworthy creature to roam our neighborhoods in the last year. In March 2018, a monitor lizard named "Bubbles" vanished from a Spring Valley pet store. Bubbles was eventually found hiding in brush near the pet store.