Taylor DaMude was taking one of Municipal Judge Ned Tupper's dogs outside Monday afternoon when he noticed a lizard by his foot.
A large, out-of-place lizard.
"Oh, you don't belong here," he thought.
The savannah monitor had climbed into the backyard of the Tupper, Grimsley & Dean law firm on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort.
The lizard is bound for foster care, where it will await its owner and a return to more familiar surroundings. But before reaching safety, it had to be extricated from alien surroundings.
So DaMude, a courier, and file clerk Shelton Avera chased the lizard around the firm's property with a box and trash can lid for about 10 minutes, finally cornering it in a neighboring yard.
"I was jumping over bushes, and it was burrowing under," DaMude said. "It felt like forever trying to catch it and going in circles."
Paralegal Stephanie Moxley stood on the sidelines laughing as DaMude and Avera pursued. With a smile on Tuesday, she blamed her high heels for keeping her out of the chase.
But thanks to 11 years of experience working in zoos, she not only identified the creature, she suggested a successful means of containing it -- bagging it in one of Tupper's pillowcases until Beaufort County Animal Control arrived to take the monitor to the shelter.
Once there, however, the staff did not initially know what to do with the lizard, animal technician Cindy Colleran said. The most exotic lizard brought to the shelter during her 2 1/2-year tenure was a water dragon.
So Colleran called her sister and brother-in-law, who keep iguanas as pets. They offered advice and will foster the savannah monitor until the owner or a new home is found.
After five days, the shelter will try to find someone experienced with exotic lizards who can properly care for it, she said.
"We just won't adopt him out to anybody," Colleran said. "We're going have to weed out the ones who don't know how to take care of them."
The lizard is about 2 feet long, strong and could bite, Colleran said. It was being kept in a cat carrier Tuesday, awaiting its foster parents.
People sometimes buy exotic lizards when they are small and abandon them when they get large and unwieldy, Moxley said. She hoped that was not the case and that this monitor simply escaped its home.
The animal shelter can be reached at 843-846-3904.
According to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the savannah monitor is native to Africa and lives in a variety of habitats, except rain forests or deserts. It is gray to light yellow. Typically, they grow to between 33 and 39 inches, but they can reach 51 inches. They are found in trees or burrows, and males can be very territorial.
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