Thursday, April 7, 2011

When Wildlife Won't Stay Put

A few other bloggers around the blogosphere have got me thinking about the wildlife that shows up in my garden (and in my house) regularly. Heidi, at Gippsland Gardens in Australia has been visited by a two foot long lizard, and Jean, in Maine (or Pennsylvania - I can never tell), is discussing her efforts to remove non-native invasives and encourage native species.   And myself, well last night I had a two hour mad maniac cat on my hands.  The true definition of wildlife. While she's looking relatively calm today (and also looking like she's trying out to be the "I'm a Mac" commercial spokeswoman), at 10 pm last night she was going bananas and hanging from a wall mounted painting.

Aside from trying to save the antique barware underneath said painting by moving it out of maniac cat's way, I also had to take the picture down and show her that there was NOTHING behind the painting or anywhere on the painting.  There's a good lesson here, btw, on why you should mount your paintings with correct picturing mounting hardware.

Anyhow, she still stood posted for at least an hour afterwards, occasionally rattling around in the barware.  At midnight, as I'm about to pack up my toys and go to bed, I see out of the corner of my eye a little form quickly moving across the rug in the dining room.  It was definitely a lizard, and this AHHA moment came over me.   My thought that it was a no-see-em bug that got away was wrong.  It was this lizard all the time.

I looked over to my right, where the cat was curled up on top of a pillow looking at me, but from that position could not see the lizard.  I had to act fast.  I casually drank the water in my water glass, and sauntered over to the dining room, pretending that I was just cleaning up for the night with my dishes, and quick as I could tried to scoop what I could now see as a tail-less gecko into the glass.  It didn't work.   I tried again to corner it against the wall, and in between my feet, and again failed.  Siggy was upon us (the cat).  Fighting her off with my left elbow, I cupped my hand and smacked it straight down on the gecko.  No time for gentleness at this point.  Safe to say I got his gecko self into the glass and out of the backdoor where he belonged, safe and sound minus the emotional trauma and a tail. Which is probably amongst the barware. Unfortunately, lizard vs cat usually ends with dead lizard at my feet and Siggy sitting there looking immensely please with herself.  So this was a victory.. or was it?

Really, this is all a very long introduction as to how I found this gecko, who clearly walked into my house, and is not native to South Carolina.  As a matter of fact, no geckos are native to South Carolina, and currently NONE are said to inhabit South Carolina.  However, this gecko, the turkish gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, who I recognize clearly from living in Florida (and who is also distinctive), is definitely here and I bet he's not the only one.  He's an invasive from Europe and will shortly be all over the place, so maybe I should have let the cat get him. I just couldn't. He eats bugs after all.

SC does have a ton of lizards, and many a time I hear people talking about the geckos.  What they usually mean, really, are the green anoles (carolina anolis) which are native here and quite ubiquitous.  I have a bazillion of them in the garden hunting bugs all day.  Green anoles do look a lot like the green geckos popularized by Geico, and hence the confusion... I think.  However, now I'm going to have to listen up and quit dismissing these people because clearly there are geckos here, despite what SC Game and Wildlife seems to think.  Florida obviously forgot to build a glass dome around its borders to keep the lizards, crazy book burning pastors, Disney princesses and the "driving while technically blind" elderly from escaping.

Anyhow, he's an alien. Seeing as this is the only gecko I've seen, whereas I see 50 or so green anoles every day, it doesn't look like their native habitat is being harmed by the gecko, but what do I know?  Technically, anoles are daytime operators and geckos nighttime operators (another reason why I never even thought of a lizard in the house, despite that we've gone through similar scenes dozens of times).   And given how buggy the South is, you'd think there would be plenty of food to go around.

What do you think?  Did I just free Adam of the Adam and Eve pair that will now populate all of South Carolina to the detriment of other species?


  1. aloha jess,

    we have many feral cats in our area fortunately they take care of unwanted pests around my home....i'm enjoying visiting your blog and posts of SC for spring, it was so refreshing to see again - thanks for sharing this!

  2. The whole invasive question just blows my mind. On one hand I think yes get rid of invasives quickly before they spread and in another I think, hey it's evolution, things change and species evolve and some get lost along the way. Humans are invasive too. If you find an answer let me know cause I wonder about this every time I see a weed.

  3. I can just see Siggy saying 'what's up? don't you see it? behind the martini glasses, it's right THERE!' Our dogs do the same thing. Find alligator lizards in the bedroom, scorpions under the sofa. I think they're obsessing on thin air, but they're always right, there's something of interest holding their attention.

    The invasive question is tough. We don't live in a bubble. Unfortunately though, for those of in milder climates, common pets can escape and breed to pest proportions in some areas. This little fellow though will have to survive bird and beast first. Who knows, maybe Siggy is still tracking him ;)

  4. Thank for making me laugh. I love your take on wildlife, I have learned so much about birds recently that I enjoyed your post on lizards (and the cat).

  5. oh wow I looked at the first picture of the lizard (I call them lizards and will always call them that) but I couldn't believe you had that one in your house, I've lived here for eight years and I have never seen one like that. He's really different! I lived in Florida too for 4 years and still have never seen one like that, btw LOL on Florida putting a glass dome up, too funny.
    My doggie made a hole in our back door screen and lizards were coming in! We fixed that one real quick in fact we got a whole new door.

    I was cleaning a shelf in FL one day and kept thinking something was looking at me and sure enough there was a lizard sitting so pretty you would have thought he was part of my decorations.

    I cleaned out a whiskey barrel for my herbs and replaced it this spring and there were three of those shanks skanks(?) skinks? whatever they are and I screamed! They had neon blue stripes and truly look like snakes with legs. I firmly told them "OUT" of my yard and then I got the hose out on them. That'll teach em. I will never put gravel or rocks ever again in the bottom of my pots cause I guess that's where they were living.

    anyway, LOVED this post and hit close to home, your kitty is too cute. My cat used to bite the lizards tails off in FL *gasp* when they would get on our screened-in porch. I would scream at him to leave them alone but what can you do? You can't watch them 24 hours.

    Ahhh Southern Living !

  6. Anything in the house is game. Anything out of the house I try to save. Just my rules of thumb. Anyway, I know what you mean about animals being where they're not supposed to be. We have black panthers here. I have seen one. Many people I know have seen them. But, officially, no, they're not here!

  7. Noel! - Oh, we don't consider the lizards pests! They keep the bug population in check and they are cute. Now, bugs, those are pests. Except for bees and butterflies, (in my book !).

    Marguerite - well said.

    CVF - Pets are indeed great for getting the icky stuff. If only they weren't so destructive in the offing of them. And, the bringing the dead stuff to me is sort of no fun either!

    Masha - your welcome. Always try to make folks laugh... not sure sometimes if I succeed.

    Sandra - I think the geckos are there (in Florida) only in the past few years or so... just somehow got there and started taking over. They are really pretty small so not scary at all. Then again, I think the skinks are cute too. I also have rough green snakes, and well...they are snakes!

    HolleyGarden - lol just the opposite of my m.o. I usually say, outside, its all's fair wild kingdom, but I try to save them inside, because I feel like its not a fair fight. Also, its no fun cleaning up dead animals.

  8. Oh and HolleyGarden - On the panthers, we have mountain lions in upstate NY where my cabin is, except for this year the powers that be have said they are extinct. Except for everyone I know up there has seen them too. I guess if you are a panther/mountain lion you need to show up to vote to be counted.

  9. Great story, your cat sounds like a real hoot!

    Good question about the invasive and native--wish I had some answers--I've recently been reading about earthworms in our neck of the woods and how there weren't any here before the Europeans brought them, and yet we're really glad to have them now (with the possible exception of native forest proponents, but even that isn't simple).

    Hope your cat doesn't know something about turkish geckos that we don't!

  10. Great post, Jess. I echo Margurete's sentiments.

  11. Yikes, Jess! I've never even thought about the issue of invasive fauna. (I don't think they come to Maine; too cold.) I'm just trying to keep the native fauna from devouring my garden. -Jean

  12. I have to admit that I'm in love with Siggy, she looks like an evil mastermind!
    The first thing I wouldn't do when my cat was staring intently at a painting is take the painting off the wall to show that there is nothing behind it, because invariably around here there will be a spider the size of a dinner plate on the back of the painting (OK, slight overstatement of the size ;) )
    Ah, I love the little gecko too and am sorry to hear that he isn't meant to be there :( We don't tend to have invasive reptiles here...the locals are a bit too much of a handful as it is!
    Thanks very much for the link Jess, I'm beginning to wish our blue tongued friend had stayed with us to eat the snails!

  13. Dear Jess, I laughed so much at this story! I think you handled the situation wonderfully. Probably I would have just screamed for my husband. P x

  14. LOL Siggy is a little like Dr. Evil. Thanks everyone for commenting!

  15. I enjoyed this post! We had a pet gecko for over 15 years, maybe he was the oldest one on earth! I could tell you some tales, but, anyway, with 3 boys, lizards were an important part of our household for a number of years. Unless your lizard can find a Mrs. I don't think you have to worry about the gecko population exploding. Your Siggy reminds me of my chilhood black cat, my favorite of all times, definitely a cat with character!