For one giant lizard named Chopper, last week was quite the adventure.
Christine and J. Craig Williams were surprised to find a 4-foot-long crocodile monitor lizard sunning itself atop a hedge in their Riverside backyard Wednesday, according to a post by Riverside County Animal Services.
Crocodile monitor lizards are related to Komodo dragons and hail from New Guinea and Indonesia. They are legal pets in California.
The couple suspect that Chopper may have been there for a few days as a bird was attacked and dogs were “going nuts.”
Officer John Hergenreder was sent to retrieve the big guy at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
“It did not try to escape when I walked up to it, but it did start to hiss loudly,” Hergenreder told SFGate. “It sensed I was coming to grab it.”
Chopper was taken to Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley.
Meanwhile, Chopper’s owner, DeWitt “Goldie” Vercher of Riverside, got wind that his buddy was missing.
“A friend of mine texted me and asked, ‘Did Chopper get out?’” Vercher said. “My stomach and everything just dropped.”
It turns out Chopper had found a “soft spot” in his large enclosure, which is 14 feet long, 9 feet wide and 8 feet high and includes a pond.
On Friday, a contractor fixed the enclosure to ensure Chopper will remain safe at home.
Vercher says Chopper’s name comes from his owner’s love of motorcycles. Vercher owns a Harley-Davidson maintenance and apparel shop, and was in the series “Sons of Anarchy” as part of the Grim Bastards club.
“He is a healthy eater,” Mr. Vercher said of Chopper. “I take care of him very well.” Chopper gets two “jumbo rats” on Wednesdays and Saturdays, he said.
“I am so happy to have him back,” he told Riverside County Animal Services. “As soon as I heard the news that he was loose, my whole system shut down.”
Not too long ago, in June, a Roseville family was shocked to find a 4-foot-long Argentine black and white tegu in their backyard.