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Invasion of the 7 Foot Nile Monitor Lizards

Updated on February 24, 2010

Florida Does its Part to Save Exotic Species thanks to an unlikely coalition: a parody

The Nile monitor lizard is large, adults can grow up to 7 feet in length and 5 footers are common.

A vicious predator that will eat anything it can fit into its mouth, it is also notoriously ill tempered.

Native to Africa, the Nile monitor has successfully established a new home in Florida, U.S.A., thanks to the untiring efforts of a coalition of Florida pet stores, reptile importers, local pet owners, liberal State legislators, regional land developers in the Cape Coral area and Florida animal rights groups.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Nile Monitor Lizard Background, Characteristics and History in Florida

"It's Like a Dream Come True" says one local resident

Nile monitor lizards have long been available in Florida pet stores, thanks to liberal State laws concerning the importation of exotic species.

In the early 1990s, reports started surfacing concerning the sightings of gigantic, monster sized lizards in the Cape Coral area. Cape Coral a burgeoning development community of 400 square miles of waterways, home sites and undeveloped land, was the original focal point of lizard resettlement.

Apparently, one local resident was feeding his pregnant, pet, Nile monitor in the backyard, when it suddenly bolted, climbed over his patio fence and made a successful bid for freedom.

In 2003, an attempt to trap, study and eradicate Nile monitors was made by a group of biologists from the University of Florida and local government contracted trappers. Though extremely difficult to trap and handle, the group was successful in capturing and euthanizing approximately 100 of the giant lizards. After euthanization, the lizard's stomach contents, were analyzed to determine its diet.

In this study, it was discovered that the lizards had in fact been feeding on feral dogs, cats and other undesireable creatures. In addition, and in spite of rumors to the contrary, no small children or livestock were found to have been eaten.

The local Nile monitor population at the time of the 2003 research and trapping program was estimated to be upwards of 1,000 and it was further estimated, that there had been a healthy breeding population of these lizards in the Cape Coral area for approximately 10 years.

One of the researchers from the University of Florida had been quoted as saying that if one were to construct a perfect Nile monitor paradise, they would build Cape Coral. Lizard lovers are confident the large reptiles are here to stay.

The Nile monitor lizard is a remarkable and adaptable animal. It can quickly climb trees, walls and houses, is a proficient swimmer and can remain underwater for up to an hour. It is relatively fast and can run at approximately 15 miles an hour. It is a proficient digger and can dig tunnels and underground burrows with ease. The Nile monitor is also a prolific breeder and female lizards lay up to 60 eggs every two years.

In its native Africa, where it is hunted by both man and crocodile, for food, the Nile monitor lizard easily maintains its population density throughout the continent. The Nile monitor is also capable of eating just about anything it can fit into its mouth, from turtles(shell and all) to roadkill. Its favorite food is any sort of eggs.

The Nile monitor is a formidible lizard, with razor sharp claws and teeth, strong jaws and tail and both speed and size. It's cousin, the Komodo Dragon (also a species of monitor lizard) found in Indonesia, grows to 10 feet in length and has been known to hunt and kill both deer and humans. Komodos have also been known to hunt in packs!

Capturing Nile monitors is definitely not for the faint hearted. Their bites can prove nasty and even fatal to humans and other animals, due to the fact that although they are not venomous, they do carry a variety of germs and potentially lethal pathogens in their saliva and medical treatment should be sought immediately. In addition, although they currently attempt to avoid people, if cornered they rear-up on their hind legs, hiss and lash out with their sharp teeth, claws and strong tails.

In spite of the hazards however, many local residents of Cape Coral have become rather attached to their beloved Nile monitors. These elusive creatures have begun showing-up in swimming pools, on roof tops and in garden ponds. One woman described how she heard a noise, looked-up from her ironing and there was a cute Nile monitor staring at her from the other side of her picture window!

Besides the cuteness factor, the big lizards are being credited by locals for keeping the feral dog and cat population under control, as well as eliminating other local pests such as rodents, snakes, and the homeless.

As one local explained, we don't miss the burrowing owls anyway, since we never saw them because they were always in their burrows.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

In Florida's Unexpected Wildlife award-winning author Michael Newton describes exotic species recognized by state wildlife authorities; "extinct" species whose passing is disputed or disproved; various aquatic "monsters" said to occupy Florida's rivers, lakes, and offshore waters; alien big cats; and the search for the elusive, enigmatic Skunk Ape--a local relative of Bigfoot. Newton's tales are riveting, and include a six-foot tall emu encountered by a jogger in a subdivision and a "sea serpent" carcass discovered at the mouth of the St. Johns River in the mid-nineteenth century by passengers aboard a schooner. The stories are illustrated with photographs and the incomparable paintings of artist William Rebsamen, hailed as the "John James Audubon of cryptozoology."

Nile Monitor Lizards on the Move!

"watch-out everglades here we come"

Updates on the Nile monitor lizard situation in Southwestern Florida show that the canny lizards have indeed been proliferating and have now made their way out to Pine Island and Sanibel Island off the coast of Cape Coral.

Being strong and excellent swimmers, it is believed these reptiles swam out to the islands and now pose a direct threat to the wildlife sanctuary on Sanibel. Traps have been set in an attempt to capture and eradicate them.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, one of the prominent biologists from the 2003 Nile monitor research project in Cape Coral, now believes that the Nile monitor is well established throughout south Florida, based on the number of recent sightings and encounters.

"These lizards will eat burrowing owls and other ground dwellers, like popcorn," stated this expert.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

New Reptile Rules in Florida - Florida Wildlife Commision

Monitor Lizard Loose in Orlando Area

Me and My Pet Nile Monitor Lizard - "wheres the burrowing owls...hmmmm"

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Readers will enjoy my article about Florida's alien invasion at: http://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/pythons-to...

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 5 years ago from USA

      .snel gnitseretni yreV !yad sdrawkcab yppaH

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 5 years ago from USA

      .snel gnitseretni yreV !yad sdrawkcab yppaH

    • profile image

      ThomasJ4 LM 6 years ago

      I had no idea these guys established a wild population in Florida, although its not surprising considering the suitable habitats in the area. Cool lens

    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens!!! I like to write about lizards too, among the other animals.... Ive just written a lens about Anolis lizard (http://www.squidoo.com/do-not-call-me-stupid).

    • Goldenpig999 profile image

      Goldenpig999 6 years ago

      Good lens . Its always interesting to see the impact non native species have on an ecosystem.

    • jnstewart profile image

      John Norman Stewart 6 years ago from Cottonwood, CA

      Very interesting lens. Had no idea that they grew that large :)

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 6 years ago

      I enjoyed your lens. Great.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Leopard Gecko

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi,

      nice lens! I'd like to know more about nile monitors though. I can't seem to find enough about them online!!!! :(

      they are soooo cute!!!!

      PS: i think this is is soo funny!! http://loonylatke.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

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    • profile image

      VivekS 7 years ago

      OOPs! What a horrifying creature and how do they do it, it's too long and looks awful. this lens has lots of guts! must say.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens!I recently returned from Sanibel and was horrified at the extermination of the native alligators there. I'm aware of the recent history of two deaths etc. I'm an animal rights activist and have a HUGE problem with the invasion of a species that does not belong there. I don't know what the solution is since I don't approve of killing, period. But there has to be humane solution this is crazy problem. Why do legislators make such poor decisions? Because of votes. Instead of common sense prevailing and outlawing exotic species importation, the rest of us now have to deal with this. Great work!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: ok for those of view who think its funny letting a lizard go you do not have one seven feet long under your sehed charging at you and trying to get at my cat in the florida room in citrus couty fl. idiots be responsible go to a shelter and hand it in.

      julie

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I can't believe there are people out there that think this invasion of monitors is ok. They need to open season on them. If one came in my yard when I lived in cape coral I would have shot it. Once again some idiot let's an "exotic" on the loose who doesn't have any natural predators. We can all say bye bye to bird sanctuaries on sanibel or anywhere else.

    • Natalie W Schorr profile image

      Natalie W Schorr 8 years ago

      Fascinating and weird, all at once.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I live in Ft. Lauderdale and the Iguanas are every where! Where are the bulk of these monitors located? Can you reliably see them every day or just once in a while?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      ..i hate the * monitors, i live in cape coral & the wretched monitors will eat anything and everything, like for instance all (what's left of) our native species because some selfish idiot has to have one of these nasty things as a pet and then let it go when it got too big to handle....duh....at least the iguanas that hang around my house only eat my plants.

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 9 years ago

      Hm, you've got my double thinking that trip to Florida... :P

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      An Indonesia island exclusively has a kind of monitor lizard, called komodo dragon, which can grow to 3 meters long. It looks similar to a monitor lizard. I watched a "performance" once, where a local lowered a tied lamb to a komodo dragon populated forest, and we watched as it feed. Scary, I didn't dare to open my eyes!

    • profile image

      ksmithtn 9 years ago

      Wow... who knew Monitor Lizards were 7 FEET LONG?! Very informative.

    • profile image

      opalship 9 years ago

      Interesting , I haven't seen these here on the island yet?

      They remind me of the pictures I just posted of the iguana and woodpecker.

      Nice report, giving you a top vote :)

    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!