Escaped monitor lizard, found laying in the sunshine of a Riverside backyard, is picked up by owner

An escape artist crocodile monitor lizard found lounging atop a hedge in a Riverside backyard and enjoying the sunshine was back home with his owner by the next day, the Riverside County Department of Animal Services announced.

Chopper, a 4-year-old crocodile monitor lizard, was picked up by owner DeWitt Vercher on Tuesday, Nov. 3, spokesman John Welsh wrote in a news release.

The five-pound, 4-foot-long lizard was discovered by Riverside residents Christine and J. Craig Williams when their dog barked and alerted them to its presence.

“It was out there sunning itself,” J. Craig Williams said.

John Hergenreder, an animal services officer, went to the Arlington South neighborhood shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday and was able to capture the lizard with a loop at the end of his control stick.

“It did not try to escape when I walked up to it, but it did start to hiss loudly,” Officer Hergenreder said. “It sensed I was coming to grab it.”

The lizard was temporarily cared for at the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley until Vercher picked it up.

Riverside County Animal Services reptile expert Kim McWhoter said the lizard was a crocodile monitor. She noted it’s a species her colleagues rarely come across.

“Crocodile monitors are not usually kept as pets by private individuals,” McWhorter said. “They need specialized care, mostly due to the large size they can reach. An owner would need a custom-built, room-sized enclosure. We hope the owner realizes we have their pet now. People are accustomed to coming to the shelter if they lose a dog or cat, but don’t necessarily think of us when they lose a lizard.”

J. Craig Williams said the lizard could have been on his property for a while, as his two dogs were barking at some sort of disturbance the night before.

It wasn’t until Chopper decided to get some sun tanning done that he was caught.

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