Lizard on lam bites officer Reptile wandering near Patterson Park may be a throwaway

October 07, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

It comes from the tropics, has a long tail, likes water, dines on rats and has a mean disposition. And it wandered up a street near Patterson Park yesterday afternoon.

The cops first thought it was a Komodo dragon. But the experts at the Baltimore Zoo labeled it an Ornate Nile Monitor Lizard. It's a distinction that doesn't matter much to Officer Drew Dorbert, who got a nasty bite trying to bag the 3-foot-long, 7-pound reptile in a pillowcase.

"The last thing you want is a big animal with a bad attitude," said Rick Krumrine, manager of the Green Iguana pet store in Finksburg, which sells the animal for $50.

Just how the lizard -- a relative of the Komodo that can grow to 7 feet long -- got to the 100 block of N. Glover St. is a mystery.

Baltimore has rats and tropic-like summers, but Formstone and asphalt aren't exactly its natural habitat. Police think someone threw it out onto the street when it grew too large.

The reptile apparently wandered all over the street shortly after noon yesterday as scared parents pulled their children to safety. Someone flagged down Dorbert, who quickly jumped into action.

"A guy said, 'There is a large lizard in an alley,' " Dorbert said. "I was thinking he was drunk." But he checked anyway. "There was a large lizard in the alley."

Dorbert did what any good officer would do. He chased it. He cornered it in front of a rowhouse, between a flowerpot and steps, and trapped it with a basket. When he tried to force it into a pillowcase, it wrapped around his arm and sank its teeth into his knuckles.

"He could have just let it run down the street," said Dorbert's boss, Lt. John Sieracki. "But it's such a pretty day and there was a lot of little kids running around. You got to do something."

An ambulance took Dorbert to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. His bleeding right hand didn't require stitches, but he has to return Thursday. Doctors are worried about a bacterial infection.

"The doctor said he never treated anything like it," Dorbert said. "That's when I started getting a little nervous. I know not to chase these lizards anymore."

Other officers put the reptile into another sack and then into a dog carrier. By the time they got to the Baltimore Zoo, the reptile was clawing its way out of the carrier and had to be subdued by two handlers with poles.

"I've been here almost 25 years and it's my first lizard bite," Sieracki said. "Next time I see one like that, I'm just going to shoot him and get it over with."

Reptile specialists at the zoo gave the unnamed reptile a thorough checkup and pronounced it healthy, free of disease and nonpoisonous. It then went to the Baltimore Animal Shelter, where workers will hold the dark green lizard with gold bands in a large aquarium for five days in case it's claimed.

If an owner doesn't come forward, it will be turned over to a reptile rescue house.. "Because of this lizard's temperament, we don't want to give the idea that it is going to be put up for adoption," said Carolyn Machowski, the shelter's veterinary supervisor.

The monitor lizard is one of 30 species of the family Veranidae, characterized by elongated head and necks, heavy bodies, long tails and well-developed legs. The Komodo dragon is the largest in the family.

Though Krumrine sells it for only $50, he selects his buyers carefully.

The animals eat fish, rodents and insects. "At 3 feet, this one could probably eat a hefty size rat," Krumrine said.

Owning one requires space.

"They are going to need a very large enclosure," he added. "Nile Monitors are very fond of water. They need an area they can chill out in."

North Glover Street apparently wasn't it.

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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