Lizards part of the Miami-area landscape

Lizards part of the Miami-area landscape

by Mary Ellen Collins

After 10 years in the desert and on the Gulf coast, I had almost gotten used to sharing my personal space with icky little lizards. But on our first evening as Florida East Coasters, John and I are stunned to see a bright green, foot-long creature ambling across a street in our residential neighborhood. It wasn't an oversize Geico gecko. It was more like a mini-Godzilla.

"It must be someone's pet that got loose," John says.

The next day I take a walk, glance into a yard near the previous evening's creature corner and see three, four ... oh God ... six of them. I peer down at the concrete wall that runs along an adjacent canal and gasp. Three other scaly things that are twice as big as their green brothers start moving fast - and so do I.

On a different route home, I count a dozen of the now-familiar spiky, prehistoric heads poking out of a grassy lawn beside a church. And although I'm four blocks from Walgreens, the Publix grocery store and upscale restaurants, I wonder if the next thing I see will be a pterodactyl swooping overhead.

A neighbor finally enlightens us about the nonnative, water-loving, pain-in-the-neck iguanas that chow down on flower gardens and relieve themselves on boat docks.

Our house is several blocks from the canal, and so far, the big guys have steered clear. But their tiny relatives don't seem to care about waterfront luxury. The little lizards,whichthat look just like the creepy crawlers we used to bake by the dozen, plant themselves on our window screens and scratch like they're waving hello. They rush inside when we leave a door open for a second. We've found them on the ceiling, under the mail and in the magazine basket.

When I discover one sitting on my office phone, I realize I'll never match John's skill in the art of catch and release. Armed with a paper towel for a gentle capture, I reach, screech and miss. The lizard launches into escape mode, and I keep yelping. After a chase down the desk legs and around the room, it scrambles into the basket that contains our computer cables. I give up and convince myself that it will leave when I'm not looking and move to a quieter house with a less hysterical owner.

I've made a reluctant peace with the little guys, but I still don't trust the two-footers. What if they someday decide they prefer fenced-in backyards? Those unsuspecting scientists didn't worry about Jurassic Park - until it was way too late. It's a jungle out there, and armed with the belief that you can never be too wary or too vigilant, I'm not going down without a fight.

Mary Ellen Collins and her husband, John, live in Boca Raton, Fla. When she's not grappling with the ups and downs of making a house a home, she reads, does yoga and worries about coming up with column ideas. E-mail her at

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