The Lizard King cometh. No, not Jim Morrison. The REAL Lizard King — an Asian water monitor named “Bamboo” that's been chilling in a South Florida neighborhood and appears to be unstoppable, or at least untrappable.
The 6-foot, 100-pound monstrosity has been thwomping around in the Broward County town of Davie since Monday and has thwarted all attempts at capture, including hooks, hunting dogs and human hands. Experts have identified it as an Asian water monitor, a breed of gargantuan lizard native to Southeast Asia. It is the second-heaviest lizard species — a runner-up to the Komodo dragon. They have an outstanding sense of smell, and have even been used in Asia for missing persons and death investigations.
Bamboo first appeared in the backyard of the Lieberman family on Aug. 27 and has returned several times since. At first, the family thought it was an alligator because he was so massive.
Then he flicked his skinny, forked tongue.
"It looked like a dinosaur,” homeowner Maria Lieberman told WSVN 7News. “My kids were screaming. We just watched ‘Jurassic Park,’ so it was insane."
Maria and her husband, Zach, have two children, 2 and 4, who have been too terrified to go outside since the creature arrived. The lizard has been making full use of the property — sunbathing, stalking through the grass, and even coming up to the sliding glass door.
Much to the family's horror, Bamboo does not appear to be afraid of people. When Zach tried to scare him off with a baseball bat, Bamboo kept coming toward him, undeterred.
“He followed me right up to the front of my house,” Zach told WSVN. “I’m pretty sure he ate Rocky the raccoon, ’cause he looked like his belly was full, so God forbid, the speed that he has to get to a small child would be pretty quick.”
According to Ron Magill of Zoo Miami, water monitors typically feast on rodents, birds and eggs. Potentially, the lizard wandering around in Davie could eat a small dog.
"It is not going to attack a human but will give you a nasty bite as well as some very severe scratches if you corner it and try to handle it,” Magill told WSVN.
Like most nonnative reptiles that slink and slither throughout Florida, the Asian water monitor is an invasive species introduced to the area by people who kept them as pets and released them into the wild when they became too much to handle. The gigantic lizards have been breeding throughout Florida, and are an amphibious menace to many native animals. Also, they climb trees. Yikes.
The scaly creature roaming around Davie apparently belonged to 14-year-old, who appears to be living out the 1985 Dead Milkmen song: “Big lizard in my backyard/Can't afford to feed him anymore/Big lizard in my backyard/bustin' down the neighbor's door."
The teen — who once had other monitor lizards but is now down to one (ah, of course) — unsuccessfully tried to recapture Bamboo after the lizard's initial sojourn to the Leibermans' home. Mike Kimmel, a trapper with Martin County Trapping & Removals who tried to catch the lizard on Aug. 28, said the boy told him he'd been keeping the thing in his backyard pool.
"I don't want the kid to get it back,” Kimmel said. “He's proven not to be a responsible owner."
Kimmel hopes to trap Bamboo and find him a wander-proof home, perhaps at a research facility or reptile sanctuary.
Experts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission attempted to snag the unwanted guest with traps baited with dead rodents. Trappers with hunting dogs tracked the scent to a burrow on the edge of the Leiberman family's tree line, but the lizard was gone.
Kimmel took another route, baiting Bamboo with his favorite fare by tying chicken thighs to tree branches and laying out sardines.
That, too, failed.
Although he's more of a python guy, Kimmel plans to try again this weekend, after spending the night hunting snakes in the Everglades this evening. If the weather is sunny, he hopes to wrangle Bamboo when the lizard comes out to sunbathe. He's not daunted by Bamboo, having caught a smaller water monitor last year that got loose in an apartment complex. Compared with wrestling a 17-foot python, Kimmel said, this is nothing.
"I'll maybe get a little sleep out in the swamp and probably head back into town and go back for it,” Kimmel said. “Maybe I'll hang a couple more chicken thighs."
Until then, all hail the Lizard King.