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Giant lizard captured after months on the loose in Florida

Tonya Alanez and Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- State wildlife agents on Tuesday captured a giant monitor lizard that had been spotted numerous times since August in Zachary Lieberman's backyard.

"I wish I could say I helped catch it but I had a premonition it was caught," he said. "I was driving down Griffin Road and I saw really a lot of iguanas out and I said to myself, 'I bet the lizard is out today.'"

The lizard is about 7 feet long and weighs about 150 pounds. And while monitor lizards are not known to attack people, the Davie, Fla., resident took no comfort in that because he has a 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.

"I'm relieved," he said. "The whole community's really relieved because people can fully enjoy the outdoors again and not have to fear that this thing might be out there lurking or whether it would attack or get after their children or a pet."

The terrified family had enlisted the help of trappers, hunting dogs, and officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to try to catch the monster, which showed up in the Liebermans' backyard -- in the 9000 block of West Tree Tops Court near the Pine Island Ridge Natural Area -- at least three times over the course of two weeks.

Lieberman called the FWC again about 2 p.m. Tuesday when he saw all the iguanas running around the streets of his neighborhood.

"Lo and behold, she said to me, 'This is crazy but we just caught it about 10 minutes ago'" he said. "I was surprised but I had a premonition and they grabbed it."

He said a woman neighbor had claimed to be keeping the lizard as a pet in her pool when it wasn't swimming in canals looking for food.

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"It was definitely somebody's pet," he said. "Bamboo, the name was Bamboo."

The FWC has restricted personal ownership of Burmese pythons, green anacondas, Nile monitors and other species considered harmful if they escape captivity. But the agency has imposed no restrictions on ownership of Asian water monitors.

"It's been a process but we're just relieved that it's finally caught," Lieberman said.

(c)2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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