SALISBURY— A 4-foot-long Nile monitor lizard kept illegally as a pet was safely retrieved yesterday on Mudnock Road, about a quarter-mile from the 37 Elm St. home he escaped from on Thursday.
The 20-pound monitor named Scully by owners Frank and Calandra Pinette was rescued thanks to an alert resident, sharp-eyed police sergeant and a fast-acting animal control officer.
According to Salisbury Detective Sgt. Richard Merrill, resident Carl LeSage of Ferry Lot Lane caught sight of the errant lizard crossing Mudnock Road. He called Salisbury police, who responded immediately, notifying the state Environmental Police and Salisbury Animal Control Officer Harold Congdon.
Congdon, Environmental Police officer Paul Croteau and Salisbury police responded and scoured the landscape before Salisbury Sgt. Kevin Sullivan spotted it hiding under bushes on the property of 59 Mudnock Road.
"Because of his coloring, (the lizard) blended right in, but Sgt. Sullivan saw him," said Salisbury Detective Kevin Pike. "You could say Sergeant Sully found Scully."
The lizard tried to evade capture, moving down an embankment toward the small stream beside the property, which could have spelled freedom for the liberated lizard. But he was foiled by the animal control officer.
"Kudos go to Harold Congdon," Merrill said. "When (the lizard) tried to get away, Harold grabbed him by the tail, put his hand under his belly and picked him right up. He did a good job."
Secure again in a small box in the back of Croteau's truck, the lizard looked more frightened than frightening.
Congdon said the lizard squirmed a bit but didn't put up much of a fuss before going quietly into his new confinement.
Scully was loaded into Croteau's carrier, but he won't be returned to his owners, who were issued summonses for importation of illegal wildlife. Although allowed in New Hampshire, monitors are illegal in Massachusetts.
"It's unfortunate," Merrill said. "The people who owned the monitor used to live in New Hampshire, where monitors are legal. They moved to Massachusetts and didn't know the situation here. Massachusetts can be strict about these things."
Scully and the Pinette's other Savannah monitor aren't going to be destroyed, Croteau promised. They're destined for a good life with reptile expert and herpetologist Mike Ralbovsky, who uses such animals in educational settings in his Rainforest Reptile Shows.
When brought in on the case last Friday by the Environmental Police, Ralbovsky urged people not to overreact to the larger than normal lizard if seen. "This is not Godzilla," Ralbovsky said, adding the animal was not a danger to humans or dogs and cats, and that it was "going to be very afraid" when approached, something Croteau confirmed yesterday.
Croteau also said the animal looked no worse for wear from his four-day excursion into the wilds of Salisbury's Elm Street neighborhood. Croteau said Scully had the look of a lizard who'd been pampered by his owners before he slipped away from his home.
"The public's safe, and Scully's safe and on his way to a good home," Pike said.