John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lizard extracted, relocated; peace restored in N.O.

Laurel Street was in minor disarray outside and inside upon my recent return.

Outside, small chameleons abound. Though the small lizards can readily change their colors to match their surroundings, they are not really chameleons, they are technically green anole lizards. Sometimes they are referred to as false chameleons. They are common throughout the southeast, but there always seems to be a big hatchout in our yard in New Orleans.

If you sit still on our front porch and watch for a few minutes, you’ll begin to notice the small lizards moving about. The little ones seem to be giving the larger lizards a wide berth, scurrying away at their approach. They are very territorial, according to Internet sources.

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The males make a mating/territorial gesture by blowing up their bright red dewlaps — their throats — and bobbing their heads up and down. It can be quite a show.

None of which is lost on the Laurel Street damncats, especially Sissy, so far the only feral damncat in the colony to cross over from wild to tame, going and coming from outside to inside and generally acting domesticated most of the time.

Sissy sits on the porch, watching for the slightest movement. When she spots a lizard hopping from plant to plant, she moves in quickly and pounces. Sometimes she gets the lizard, but more often she gets the tail, which the lizard easily leaves behind, wiggling and writhing. But the pouncing, along with pounces from other damncats whose interest is attracted by the small creatures’ movements, has left Rosemary’s flowers knocked down and broken.

That was the outside disarray. The inside disarray was also caused by a lone chameleon, one who had appeared in the kitchen several days before my arrival and had resisted my wife’s efforts with flyswatter and other implements to herd him back outside through an open window or door. She does not have an irrational fear of reptiles but prefers them outside.

My job upon arrival was to move the small critter back outside. The chameleon had made his way from the kitchen to the dining room floor.

When I tried to grab him, he ran under a table. When I went around the table, he ran back to where he’d been in the first place. I was determined not to grab him by the tail.

I banged around on my knees in pursuit before grabbing the squirming lizard along his mid-section between my thumb and forefinger.

As soon as he saw he was caught, he turned his head and grabbed the forefinger holding to him between his tiny jaws. He clamped down and held on as I stood up and carried him to the door. He was just big enough to get my finger between his wide-open jaws, so it didn’t pinch, but he held on to me as determinedly as I held him during that trip to the front porch. Brassy little fellow.

I dropped him into a flower box on the front porch and he quickly disappeared. No doubt he’ll be heard from again, but at least it will be in the yard.