Massive, Menacing Lizard Terrorizes South Florida Family

Zach Lieberman says "Godzilla's smaller cousin" is wreaking havoc at his house.

‘Terror in Davie’

That might sound like the title of a B movie, but it’s a real-life nightmare for a family of four in South Florida who are being harassed by what looks like a prehistoric reptile on amphetamines.

“Dude, he’s big ― real big,” Zach Lieberman, 33, told HuffPost of the massive creature that’s been slinking around his house. “He’s every bit of 6-feet and every part of 100- to 150-pounds. He’s a monster.”

I thought, 'Wow, we got quite the lizard problem.' Zach Lieberman

Lieberman’s wife, Maria, also 33, spotted the behemoth outside their Davie home on Sunday.

“My wife was walking by our sliding glass door and let out a pretty loud scream,” he said. “I ran over and looked out the shades on the door and, lo and behold, Godzilla’s smaller cousin was right there. It was alarming to me and terrifying to my wife and kids.”

Davie isn’t Tokyo ― and the lizard in question isn’t related to Godzilla (that we know of), but to show they weren’t losing their minds, the Liebermans took several videos of the giant lizard. It’s since been identified as an Asian water monitor.

At one point, Lieberman said, he decided to lure the monitor away from his door. That’s the moment, he said, that he realized just how big of a problem the lizard could be.

“I was trying to lure it into my garage, so I could contain it, and it got a little aggressive,” he said. “He apparently got hip to my idea, turned on me and took off running. It was a full-on sprint. I’d thought this was a slow creature. Man, it’s not! That really frightened me because we have two small kids, 2 and 4 years old. They can’t go in the backyard now because this thing could dart out in an instant.”

The Liebermans contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has been trying for the past several days to capture the slinky monitor. So far it has proved to be one slick lizard. It’s not falling for the dead rats they’re using as bait.

Mike Kimmel, a state-contracted python hunter in the Everglades, said that, although he prefers to focus on catching sna
Mike Kimmel, a state-contracted python hunter in the Everglades, said that, although he prefers to focus on catching snakes, he's "not going to let this huge lizard run free."

Mike Kimmel, owner of Martin County Trapping & Removals and Martin County Wildlife Rescue in Indiantown, got wind of the problem and traveled to Davie on Tuesday.

“Originally, they were going to euthanize the animal, so that’s why I got involved,” said Kimmel, who’s known as Trapper Mike and is typically out capturing large snakes. “I knew I could find a home for him, and I really wanted to preserve his life.”

According to Kimmel, the lizard is a water monitor whose native habitat is Southeast Asia.

“There’s been some discrepancy as to whether it’s a Nile or Asian,” Kimmel explained. “I think the media wants it to be a Nile because then it’s a little scarier, but it’s an Asian water monitor.”

However, the expert trapper warned that a water monitor, no matter the size, shouldn’t be taken for granted. They are, as Lieberman discovered, extremely fast, and their teeth are like serrated razor blades. Their bite can be vicious, but, because they eat dead flesh, the parasites that line their jaws can be even more deadly, causing dangerous infections. Add to that some very long and very sharp claws and there is potential for serious injury.

“Their teeth can rip you apart and do a hell of a lot of damage,” Kimmel said. “But, in general, most of them don’t want anything to do with us. If they are handled every day, they can basically be like a puppy dog. It’s mainly when they feel cornered that they can absolutely be dangerous.”

No one initially knew where the monitor came from. Although such lizards are sold at pet shops, it’s illegal to release any exotic pet in Florida, whether accidentally or intentionally. Officials said they had no record of anyone reporting a lost or stolen monitor.

But on Tuesday, a neighbor claimed it was his lost pet, according to Lieberman and Kimmel.

“I spoke with the supposed pet owner,” Kimmel said. “He told me its name is Bamboo and it escaped a few weeks ago. He said he kept it in his pool and that he has three others as well. He will most likely not be getting this one back. What he described ― how he was housing it and why he didn’t report it ― shows he’s not a responsible owner.”

As luck would have it, it rained in Davie on Tuesday. According to Kimmel, monitors prefer sunny weather, so the conditions weren’t ideal. “I didn’t see him. If I had, that thing would be caught right now.”

Lieberman said he and a group of friends came close to catching the monitor on Thursday, but then it ran into a nearby lake.

“People need to leave it to the professionals,” Kimmel said. “I’ll be back this weekend, and I will locate and remove him.”

And so it’s yet to be seen whether Bamboo will be rousted from this once peaceful residential area or if he’ll take a cue from his big cousin, Godzilla, and lumber off into a nearby waterway, biding his time until his next adventure.

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