Legu the Tegu hangs out at the Blue Mountain Humane Society.
WALLA WALLA — Lucky for Legu the Tegu, the officer who found him Wednesday watches a lot of “Animal Planet.”
That’s how it was that Walla Walla Police Sgt. Mike Ralston knew to grab the 3 1/2-foot black and white Argentine lizard by the tail first, then the head before wrangling him into a box and delivering him to the Blue Mountain Humane Society.
“He’s lucky that he got picked up by one of Walla Walla’s finest rather than getting stomped on,” said Sara Archer, the Humane Society’s executive director.
Argentine tegus are known as some of the most intelligent lizards, so it may come as no surprise that Legu stealthily escaped his enclosure in the yard at the home of caretakers Blythe Peddicord, Brian Biagi, and 8-year-old Jasmine Peddicord sometime Wednesday afternoon. It did, however, surprise Humane Society employees and loads of followers on the agency’s Facebook page that the lizard was living here in the first place.
Native to South America, Legu has been living with his human family in the neighborhood around Lincoln High School. Peddicord said he moved in temporarily about six months ago when his owners needed help watching him while they moved. Peddicord said instead of going back to his owners, he became part of her family that also includes a sulcata tortoise.
Tegus, it turns out, are known as escape artists. And this one made it as far as Second Avenue before he was spotted on the lam.
“Luckily he didn’t get hit with all the high traffic,” Peddicord said via email message.
As the Humane Society is more widely known as a shelter for companion animals, such as dogs, cats and an occasional missing tortoise, Archer said she wasn’t immediately sure what was coming through the door when Sgt. Ralston arrived. But the officer was certain he knew the lizard was a tegu.
A quick Google search confirmed what they had. But then how to find the owner? Facebook took care of that.
In the time since Legu’s picture was first posted Wednesday, his mug has garnered 121 “shares,” 43 “likes” and 61 comments. It only took a couple of comments before Peddicord was tagged as Legu’s owner.
As part of his journey, the omnivorous lizard had an overnighter at the Humane Society, where he was fed sweet melon and raw chicken and employees cracked jokes about keeping him clear from his furry neighbors.
“There was a lot of light-hearted banter about him eyeballing the cats,” Archer said.
The extraordinary visitor was the center of unexpected excitement for Humane Society operators this week. “We’ve seen a lot of iguanas, a couple of tortoises this year, but never anything like this,” Archer said.
“It’s such a privilege for us to be the place that provides shelter. This is not an animal that we’re set up to care for long-term.”
Around 3 p.m. Thursday his family picked him up from the shelter. Though grateful for the experience, both sides are fairly certain Legu has learned his lesson.
“He did spend the night in the dog house,” Archer quipped.