Outrage and fear accurately describe the emotions of Colorado residents who learned today that a Nile monitor lizard roams the countryside. Dino, an exotic pet considered endangered in some areas of the globe, weighs over 25 pounds and measures 6 feet in length. The animal slipped out of his nylon walking harness and fled his owner leaving many residents concerned for their small pets.
According to the Oregon Zoo's website, this variety of lizard prefers tropical temperatures and is a native of Africa. The lizard's last known location was Woodland Park, south of Denver. Nile monitors become invasive species in warm areas like Florida but authorities say that once summer temperatures drop in early fall, the animal won't survive.
Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger told Reuters, "These lizards are pretty muscular and can be aggressive." Besides strength and a bad attitude, monitor lizards are extremely intelligent. In the wild pairs and groups of lizards are known to work together to stalk and capture live prey. "Domesticated" lizards recognize their owners and are reported to have distinct personalities.
In the wild, Nile monitor lizards travel and live in different habitats like trees, ponds and land. They prefer eating live prey and typically go for rodents, birds and even snakes. Since Dino is a pet, he will likely look for easy prey like small cats and dogs. In the Colorado mountains the lizard will have to contend with mountain lions and raptors who might consider him a curious, yet good meal.
Sheriff Ensminger asks the public avoid attempting to capture the lizard. Instead, call the Teller County Sheriff's Office at 719-687-9652.
It is not illegal to own this type of exotic pet in Colorado. No charges are expected to be filed unless the monitor harms someone.