‘Monster’ lizard is menacing a family in their backyard. Even trappers are stumped

October 23, 2018
Giant nile lizard
A giant Nile monitor lizard appeared on a Broward family’s pool deck.
(Courtesy of Zachary Lieberman)

This is one giant lizard the meteor missed -- and it’s in a Davie neighborhood.

According to Martin County Trappings & Removals, a six-foot Nile monitor or an Asian monitor is driving a Davie family nuts. So far, it’s not cooperating with the rescue group’s plans to capture the remnant of the late Mesozoic era.

On Tuesday, “Trapper Mike” aka Mike Kimmel of the Martin County agency posted one bit of success on Facebook in the group’s efforts at corralling the Nile monitor that has staked territory in a lakefront and leafy Davie community: “Got this monster of an invasive cane toad while hunting down a 6ft monitor in Davie... wish me luck y’all this lizard I’m tracking is huge!”

But so far luck isn’t on humans’ side.

The Lieberman family -- Zachary and Maria and their two young children -- spotted the monitor in their backyard a few days ago strolling about and flicking its tongue and no amount of people tricks such as chasing it or shooting phone video have convinced the carnivorous beast to find a family of its own far away, WPLG Local 10 reported.

“We haven’t captured it yet and we’ve been diligently trying,” Zachary Lieberman said in an interview with the Miami Herald Wednesday. “The FWC was out here and a couple of local trappers and I’ve been out there and we thought we had a good lead on it today. We were tracking it down but came up empty handed.”

Lieberman said a dog helped trappers by picking up on the monitor’s scent and led them to a hole. A trapper with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stuck a scope down the hole but, alas, it was empty.

“It might have burrowed into the area,” Lieberman said. “The area I’m at is heavily forested, a big preserve, so it’s got a lot of hiding places. It’s not as easily accessible.”

Except when it wants to be. A couple days after it was shushed away into the woodsy grounds the monitor showed up again, pressing its mug right up against the sliding glass window in the Lieberman’s back porch near their fenced-in pool.

Monitors swim, too, which makes them happy in South Florida even though Nile or Asian water monitors are considered invasive in Florida, according to environmental groups like Martin County Trappings and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can’t make them pets in Florida.

On Tuesday, Trapper Mike posted on Facebook of his group’s efforts, alongside the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, of their shared efforts in trying to trap monitor.

“Didn’t get it, sun never came out making it very hard,” the Martin County Trappings post read. “Worked [with] FWC so hopefully they will trap before this weekend, if not I’ll be back.”

Nile monitors are particularly populous in Cape Coral in southwest Florida. Cape Coral’s Environmental Resources Division conducts a trapping program to help reduce the population.

Experts warn that these monitors, though not venomous, can bite and leave a nasty wound, especially on small children, which populate the Davie neighborhood this monitor has made home.

“It’s scary it’s out there,” Lieberman said. “When I first encountered it it wasn’t afraid of humans. If it gets up close to a human and gets spooked that is when bad things can happen. It looks like it ate something big, like a raccoon. When animals go missing people think it’s the Chupacabra,” he said, with a chuckle.

This isn’t a mysterious figure like the so-called Chupacabra. But that doesn’t make this monitor any less of a nuisance. As summer hits the peak of heat in South Florida the Liebermans have had to adjust their lifestyles to accommodate an unwelcome visitor.

The couple’s children are 2 and 4 and usually are in the pool every day, their dad said.

“Since it’s been in our backyard my wife is scared to go in the pool, and rightly so. It’s a water monitor and likes to swim. This thing can come flying out of the bushes and see small children as food. That’s not an easy situation to deal with,” Lieberman said.

He says the family’s lifestyle has changed as a result of the monitor’s arrival. “Until we catch it the kids are not going in the pool and not swimming and these are things we like to do in South Florida in the summer.”

Maria Lieberman posted a video to her Facebook page of news groups talking to trappers on her property. A Facebook friend responded in the thread that it’s “Time to move!” and posted a Realtor’s listing of a Parkland residence.