Lizard Lazarus: Gaylord the iguana returns home

After weeks in the wilds of west Edmonton, Gaylord the iguana is home. And it turns out he didn't go very far.

A heart-warming homecoming for this cold-blooded creature

Gaylord the iguana disappeared from his west end backyard in early August. (Mary-Ann Holm/Facebook )

After weeks in the wilds of west Edmonton, Gaylord the iguana is home.

The five-foot long lizard vanished from his owner's Webber Greens backyard on Aug. 13.

Embracing the cold-blooded creature again was a heart-warming moment for owner Mary-Ann Holm.

"It was sheer joy and complete shock," Holm said Monday. "I had pretty much given up hope."

While spending an August afternoon sunbathing his green and orange scales with his fellow rescue iguana, Fluffy, Gaylord was spooked by a dog and scaled the backyard fence to escape.

The Edmonton iguana was found safe and sound, four weeks after he clambered over a fence. 0:46

His disappearance triggered a frantic lizard-hunt in the area. A troop of neighbours, friends and strangers alike searched backyards and back alleys for any trace of the tropical creature.

Desperate to find him, Holm offered a handsome bounty of $1,000 for his safe return.

Still, Gaylord eluded his rescuers.

Nestled in the neighbour's yard

But it turns out the lizard hadn't wandered far from home. He was found Saturday afternoon, taking refuge in a neighbour's backyard.

"He was found across the street from house, directly across the street in the neighbor's backyard," Holm said. "[The neighbour] happened to notice the guy pointing his nose out from his back deck. 

He felt like a complete block of ice, but otherwise he looked perfectly fine and seems fine now.- Mary-Ann Holm

"We rushed home and sure enough, there he was. He wasn't that willing to come out from under the deck. But with some poking and prodding we finally got him out from under there."

He was lethargic from weeks of being exposed to the elements, but he's still plump and as cantankerous as always.

"He felt like a complete block of ice, but otherwise he looked perfectly fine and seems fine now, " Holm said. 

"He got himself warmed up and he seems like his old self."

A new lizard king 

But Gaylord will no longer be the lizard king in the Holm household.

While he was away, Holm expanded her reptile family.

During her very publicized search, Holm received a photo of another Edmonton iguana by someone who suspected Gaylord had somehow ended up at an Edmonton pet store.

Although it turned out not to be her beloved Gaylord, the grizzled old reptile in the pet store window pulled at Holm's heartstrings.

Holm said the iguana, 16, he suffered years of neglect before he was rescued from a "drug house" in Fort McMurray.

He spent nearly 10 years as the resident lizard in a local pet store in the northern Alberta city, before the May wildfires forced the reptile to evacuate to Edmonton.

"I looked at that photo and realized quickly that it wasn't Gaylord, but then my heart started to break for this lizard," Holm said.

"So I went to visit him and fell in love with the little guy, and felt sorry for him, because he's quite handicapped.
Mary-Ann Holm adopted Everest the elderly iguana after Gaylord went missing. (Mary-Ann Holm/Facebook)
 Holm took in the lizard on the condition that he could be returned to the pet store if Gaylord was ever found.

After years of neglect the elderly lizard is weak, his claws gnarled and permanently broken. But Holm says he's settled in nicely so far, taking long steamy baths and eating his fill of grapes and greens.

However, two males iguanas will often fight for territory, and Holm now worries her three reptiles will make for an uncomfortable crowd.

"Now I find myself with three iguanas and not really wanting to send this fella back to the pet store," Holm said. 

"But I have a few lizard-related friends who really like him, so I'm sure I can find him a really good home if I were not able to keep him here."

Cold-blooded brood

She hopes her cold-blooded creatures will warm up to each other, eventually. She's named the new geriatric iguana Everest. 

"It's kind of a play on the fact that he can't climb, so he's definitely not going to be climbing Mount Everest, but he's a really sweet fellow.

"Gaylord, on the other hand, isn't that sweet. Despite that, I really love him… he's a young iguana so he's got raging hormones and he's kind of cranky at times," Holm said. 

Gaylord used to be more aggressive with Holm, and she has the scars to prove it. He was just starting to warm up to his human family when he went missing, Holm said.

"I think we can continue to work with him," she said.

"Hopefully he'll be just as nice as Everest one day."

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon


Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca