Humble man finds huge Nile Monitor in his backyard

July 28, 2010 7:36:38 AM PDT
A Harris County man says he was nearly attacked in his yard by a Nile Monitor, a large, mammal eating lizard native to Africa. It happened at a home in Humble and the 75-year-old man says when he saw it, he had to do something so that it wouldn't hurt anyone.

Imagine being in your backyard startled by a four-legged reptile nearly five feet long.

Howard Theiss was working in one of his flowerbeds at his northeast Harris County home.

"He crawled on underneath the fence over there," said Theiss.

In his almost 75 years of life, he was sure he'd never seen a critter like this in his yard.

"I've seen different animals in different places, but that don't belong in this area," Theiss said.

He's never seen anything that comes even close to this four-legged reptile.

"He was moving quickly, faster than I could walk," he said.

Theiss described the reptile as making "a little hissing sound."

He ran inside. His wife peered out the kitchen window, giving him a play by play as the creature milled around their yard.

"The way it was walking, it was on a stalk to get something to eat," Theiss said.

He knew it was obviously some kind of lizard, but he wasn't going to wait around to find out more.

We took pictures of the reptile to Stan Mays, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Houston Zoo. He quickly identified it.

"Yes that looks like a Nile Monitor to me," Mays said.

While they do not have any at the Houston Zoo, the Nile Monitor is a distant relative to the mother of all lizards - the Komodo Dragon.

"I want to say there's about 53 species of monitor lizards ranging in size from less than a foot to the Komodo Dragon which of course can reach up to 10 feet," said Mays.

Mays says the Nile Monitor is native to Africa, but is a common exotic pet in the US.

He believes this monitor had been well fed which leads him to believe it was someone's pet and does not believe it had been roaming around for long.

"They can be aggressive, but only most likely if they feel their life is in danger," said Mays.

Theiss had gone inside to call animal control, but before anyone answered he decided to take his rifle outside. He fired a few shots.

"Here is where he met his end," said Theiss.

He was afraid if it left his yard where it might go next.

"I wasn't going to let it go and hurt somebody," he said.

Now working in his flowerbed won't quite be the same.

"I don't want no more of them to come around," Theiss said.

Texas Parks and Wildlife responds to animals that are only native to Texas. Harris County Animal Control said they cannot legally regulate reptiles, so basically there are no leash laws when it comes to lizards.


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