A sheriff has warned residents in a tourist town northwest of Colorado Springs that a strong, aggressive 6-foot lizard that eats small animals — including dogs and cats — is on the loose in the area.
Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensinger said Tuesday that a 25-pound pet Nile monitor lizard has gone missing after breaking a mesh leash and crawling away.
Ensinger said about 400 homes in the Woodland Park area were warned. He added that the animal, which escaped Monday and is known as Dino, has not bitten any humans — yet.
"We have a 6-foot reptile out and about," Ensinger said. "If it gets hungry enough, we don't know what it will do."
Ensinger said his animal control division is searching for the animal.
Area resident Rick Stasi said the sheriff's advisory was unsettling, warning "pet owners and parents are urged to use caution while pets and children are outdoors."
Stasi said he plans to keep his two small dogs indoors.
This lizard hunt bears a striking resemblance - both in origin and nature - to concerns about pet pythons on the loose in Florida earlier this eyar. The pythons grow too large to keep, are released by pet owners (or escape) and then start dining on small mammals.
Bradley Bundy, a veterinarian at Dublin Animal Hospital in Colorado Springs, said the lizard could inflict a nasty bite if cornered.
"This kiddo could hurt someone if they don't know how to restrain it," Bundy said. He added that the lizards are sold in area pet stores and look cute when they're only 8 inches long, but they can grow to reach 9 feet when they get older.
Ensinger said officers may use a tracking dog if Dino isn't located by Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm not going after it," Ensinger said. "I don't do reptiles."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.