Lost lizard on the loose in Riverside reunited with owner

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- In the hills above Riverside, there is plenty of wildlife, but one thing you probably would not expect to find is a crocodile monitor lizard.

Riverside resident J. Craig Williams found the 5-pound, 4-foot-long crocodile in his backyard in the middle of the night.

"Certainly, an odd thing to find in your backyard," Williams said.

Williams said his dogs got excited and ran outside but could not find anything.

"The dogs were really going nuts a couple nights ago," he said.

Williams' 65-pound Labrador mix named Duchess spotted the lizard on top of their back hedge.

"It didn't play dead. It was certainly alive, and as I approached, it gave me this look like, 'Don't do that,' so we backed up," Williams said.

The couple called Riverside County Animal Services who came out to rescue the lost lizard. Riverside County Animal Services Officer John Hergenreder responded to the Arlington South neighborhood shortly before 5 P.M.

"It did not try to escape when I walked up to it, but it did start to hiss loudly," Hergenreder said. "It sensed I was coming to grab it."

The lost 4-year-old male crocodile monitor named Chopper was returned to owner DeWitt Vercher on Friday.

Kim McWhorter, reptile expert at Riverside County Animal Services, said this species comes from New Guinea and likes to eat small rodents and birds.

"As you can see it does have some sharp claws, and it does have some pretty sharp teeth in there," reptile expert Kim McWhorter said.
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