CAMDEN, Maine — This famously pretty midcoast town attracts many summer visitors, from well-heeled retired folks to schooner-mad teenagers. But a 2-foot long exotic lizard?
That news made Chief Randy Gagne stand up and take notice.
He and Officer Brook Hartshorn used a catchpole Tuesday afternoon to wrangle the lizard from a spot near the Megunticook River into a dog crate and then to the Wildlife Care Center in Vassalboro. A resident had reported that the lizard was in his backyard and also took photographs which he sent to the University of Maine, where a biologist tentatively identified it as a South American Tegu lizard.
Ross Parker, superintendent of the Camden Wastewater Treatment Plant, was the first person to bring the reptile to the chief’s attention. About a week ago or so, Parker was working on Washington Street near Seabright Dam when he and a co-worker noticed an unusual animal sunning itself in the grass.
“The fellow I was with, his comment was, ‘Doesn’t look like a native to me,’” Parker quipped.
They tried to grab it but weren’t quick enough and the lizard scuttled away, he said.
“He was just lying in the grass enjoying the moment, until we came along and ruined it for him,” Parker said.
Gagne said that the lizard ‘wasn’t very happy’ to be caught but others seem relieved it is heading for a new home. The Wildlife Care Center owners likely will send it to another rehabilitation center in New Hampshire, where it will hopefully find a new owner. That’s just fine with its most recent owner, whom the police tracked down later Tuesday afternoon with the help of Facebook.
“This person had brought it from Connecticut as a rescue,” said Gagne, who refrained from naming the owner. “About three weeks ago, he had it in a cage behind the house and he found that the cage was open. He thought a predator had gotten a hold of the lizard.”
The lizard’s rescuer told the chief that he didn’t have the means to keep it any longer and was happy to let it go to a rehabilitation center.
According to information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tegus are an invasive species which reproduces quickly and eats a wide variety of food items. There are several breeding populations scattered around Florida which are believed to have been founded by escaped or released pets. The lizards are native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.
In Maine, common and dwarf tegus are on the unrestricted fish and wildlife species list from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.