Unsolicited advice for the Gulf Restoration Network: If you want more people to care about coastal erosion, algae blooms and offshore dead zones, then include more stories about 5-foot flesh-eating lizards invading Florida in your weekly Gulfwaves mailers. This one, by the St. Petersburg Times' Michael Kruse, is the online equivalent of a compulsive page-turner, going from wildlife report to horror film treatment in 1,500 words flat. A taste:
The lizards' weapons include: sharp, snake-like teeth, long, muscular tails they use as whips, and claws that look like the sinister pendants of voodoo necklaces. They can run up to 18 miles per hour on land and swim under water for an hour at a time. ...
He learned they're not picky eaters. Bugs, frogs, smaller lizards, turtles, birds, rodents, baby alligators, endangered gopher tortoises, endangered burrowing owls, the eggs and offspring of any of these animals, feral cats, domestic cats, possibly even the family dog, road kill, whatever.
They sometimes hunt in packs.
Their disposition is disagreeable. ...
"Nile monitors," he wrote in his final report in '05, "continue to horrify the residents of Cape Coral by climbing on their houses, attacking their pets and scaring their children. They have the potential to devastate native fish and wildlife populations."
Monitor stories started to hit the local papers. One couple said they believed a monitor ate their elderly cat, leaving behind on the bank of the canal only his white paws and black tail.