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Big monitor lizard spotted in canal behind southwest Cape home

By Staff | Jul 21, 2010

Donna Barbera was sunbathing in her backyard this week when she caught sight of a monster.
Her husband, Jim, said what she saw was a 6-foot-long Nile monitor lizard swimming in the canal behind their southwest Cape Coral home.
The Barberas’ home faces the Southwest Spreader.
“She saw it swimming in the canal and didn’t know what it was,” Barbera said.
Having just moved to the area from New Jersey, Barbera said they knew about the lizard’s presence in the city.
“We never thought we’d see one,” he said.
The city, like many across the state, is battling the invasive species.
Kraig Hankiens, environmental biologist for city, said there was no clear picture of the Nile monitor lizard population.
At 6 feet long, like the one spotted in the Barberas’ canal, he said there isn’t much that will challenge them in the local ecosystem, aside from getting hit by car.
They feed on rabbits, birds, eggs, rats and other lizards, Hankiens said.
He also said there was no way of knowing how long they’ve been part of the city’s ecosystem. He’s gotten reports of people seeing them as long ago as 15 years ago.
But how they were introduced to the ecosystem is still a mystery.
“There’s two theories. Either they were let go accidentally or on purpose, or someone let them go in hopes of harvesting their eggs and sell them,” he said. “But we’ll never know for sure.”
The city has caught roughly 300 of the lizards, using traps laid out near areas with recent sightings.
Averaging 50 captures a year, Hankeins said the lizards, when caught, are “ethically euthanized” — frozen, and sent to the University of Tampa for study.
The number of trappings are starting to pick up this year, he said.
“Its slowed a little, and we think that’s because of the freeze,” he said. “But we are starting to catch more now.”