Manitoba

The way of the dragon: Lost lizard found after 10-day, 4-km hike through Winnipeg

An Elmwood man who spent 10 days searching for his pet bearded dragon is breathing easier today. 

Owner 'tickled pink' to hold his bearded dragon again after an improbable journey

William Hill holds his two-year-old bearded dragon for the first time Tuesday night, after he went missing for 10 days. He was discovered four kilometres from his home. (Ian Froese/CBC)

An Elmwood man who spent 10 days searching for his lost dragon is breathing easier today. 

William Hill's bearded dragon is finally back under his care, after his beloved foot-long reptile named Groot set off on an improbable four-kilometre adventure to St. Boniface.

And as fate would have it, Groot was taken in by Cara Velnes, who just happened to have a tank for a bearded dragon gathering dust in storage. 

"I was just tickled pink," the 23-year-old roofer said after being reunited with his pet dragon at Velnes' home.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I was telling my sisters and my dad; my dad couldn't believe it either."

It's not only peculiar how far the reptile scuttled away from his Elmwood home, after escaping while lounging outside with Hill's father, but how the creature survived. Bearded dragons, which are native to Australia, are kept in tanks to replicate a hot, desert-like environment.

Cara Velnes pets the bearded dragon she took care of Tuesday night, after it was discovered outside her front door. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Hill doesn't know exactly where his bearded dragon was, but Groot has likely been roaming the city since June 13.

"They're supposed to have constant supply of heat, I'm really surprised that he survived those cold nights," Hill said. 

Few people were perhaps more prepared to shelter the displaced lizard than Velnes.

That's because Velnes bought a tank specifically for a bearded dragon last year. Her kids wanted one for Christmas, but then their wish list changed and the tank was stowed away.

Until Tuesday night, that is.

WATCH | Bearded dragon takes unexpected journey:

Groot the lost lizard was found after a 10-day, 4-km hike through Winnipeg. 1:18

Velnes heard a commotion outside her door as some neighbour kids found the reptile underneath a truck.

She decided to take in the pet since she already had the pet's room and board covered.

"I ended up pulling [the tank] out and I had to explain to my kids why I have a giant tank for a lizard," Velnes said.

"Of course, the kids wanted to keep it, but that's not my situation — we can't do that."

She flagged the discovery on a St. Boniface Facebook group, and someone else connected the dots to a social media post on a Winnipeg lost dogs page regarding a lost lizard from Elmwood.

Within two hours, Hill and his sister, Chantalle Gauthier, were at Velnes' door.

Hill had been scouring his neighbourhood and handing out flyers since Groot went missing.

He was starting to run out of hope when he received a text message on Tuesday. 

"I just can't wait to get him home, put him in his cage, get him all warmed up, try feeding him a couple of worms, see how he is, and then I'll take him to the vet tomorrow," Hill said.

Velnes said she's happy to have facilitated the reunion, and it may not be the last bearded dragon her family will have.

"There is a birthday in two weeks, so we'll see," she said, laughing.

Coincidentally, Groot's temporary home at Cara Velnes' house happened to be a tank she had bought for the express purpose of keeping a bearded dragon. (Cara Velnes/Submitted)

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

With files from Gavin Boutroy

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