Tuesday, May 05, 2020

ANDROCLES AND THE GILA MONSTER

In Greek mythology, Androcles was an escaped slave who made friends with a lion by removing a thorn from the lion's paw. Years later, when the two met in the arena, the lion remembered Androcles' kindness and spared his life.

Last night, I glanced out the front door and saw a Gila monster walking up the front sidewalk, purposefully, as if he were going to an appointment. While I ran for the camera, the Gila monster headed straight for the porch and ensconced himself behind some empty planters. 

I have no problem with Gila monsters, but we receive a lot of deliveries these days, and I didn't want anyone running into him. So I called my friend Ed, a fellow docent from Tohono Chul, with whom I go birding in the neighborhood. Ed is a retired herpetologist, and volunteers to remove unwanted reptiles from neighbors' yards. A few minutes after I called, Ed came over with his snake bucket, tongs, and a snake hook. All he needed was the hook, with which he pinned the Gila monster down, then carefully picked it up with both hands. 



Then Ed noticed that the poor Gila monster had a cholla joint near the base of its tail, and a number of small spines.
Ed told me to go in and get a tweezer, so I got my longest cosmetic tweezer and returned. Then, while he continued to hold the Gila monster, I removed the chunk of cholla and the miscellaneous spines surrounding it. The Gila monster didn't seem to mind, though it was difficult to get the cholla joint out. When that was done, we talked about where to release the Gila monster, and finally decided on the little wash next to my house, where it might be less likely to cross the road. So Ed gently set it down in the wash.
 It immediately began slithering uphill, back toward my house. It walked along the outside of the wall, then disappeared into the oleanders behind the wall (and outside of my yard). 

A passing pair of pedestrians, new to the desert, had watched most of this performance in awe. Ed quickly reassured them that he is a professional herpetologist. "Don't try this at home," I added.

As for Androcles and his lion, I know I will never meet our Gila monster in the arena. But maybe someday reptilian aliens will conquer the earth, and our grateful lizard friend will put in a good word for me and Ed.

10 comments:

  1. What a wonderful neighbor Ed is. You are lucky he was there. I’m sure Alex would be jealous as hell, I know I am. As for reptilian aliens, I hope they appear while I’m still around & cognizant of the world.💜👩‍🎤😷💜

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Ed is a fellow docent of mine at Tohono Chul, and he loves the opportunity to interact with snakes and lizards. So it was a treat for him as well as for me (and presumably for the Gila monster, getting a free cholla-ectomy).

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  2. Great post! Can't beat entertaining and informative. And TERRIFIC pictures!

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad some of the photos came out. I especially wanted to show the cholla joint... imagine how relieved the lizard must have felt to have it removed!

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  3. Thank you for helping this beautiful creature. We are so lucky to have you both in our neighborhood.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! We are all so lucky to have such wonderful creatures living here!

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  4. That was so awesome!!! I would have loved to watch that...love those cute guys.

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    1. It was a thrill to be able to help him!

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  5. What a heart-warming account of you and Ed doing the right thing to help one of our neighborhood creatures, and to remove a sticker from it to boot. Sets a good example for all of us. One act of kindness pays it forward. Your photos and written account are excellent. I bet you could share them with the Arizona Daily to publish as a human interest story for the whole area.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Ed and I both feel really good about having helped the lizard. I don't think the Star or any other local paper would be interested in something that has already been published on the Internet, but I might ask someone I know who used to work for them.

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