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[whitespace] Hissed at, lizard's captor has no plans to adopt

Willow Glen--Residents of Malaga Way and Aragon Drive are taking back their streets now that a 32-inch Nile monitor lizard that had been loose in the area was put behind bars on July 24.

But the question of whether a larger, four-and-a-half-foot lizard is living in the neighborhood remains a mystery. Many residents believe the neighborhood, for the most part, is now free of large lizards.

Malaga Way resident Dave Espinola, 35, caught the 32-inch lizard in his front yard after a neighbor walking down the street spotted the lizard and knocked on Espinola's door.

The lizard hissed at Espinola. "He was showing he didn't want to be caught," Espinola says.

The lizard was fast, but not fast enough. After a few minutes, Espinola cornered the lizard near some bushes in his front yard and grabbed it by the neck.

Meanwhile, neighbors gathered around while Espinola put the lizard in a pillow case and called 911. The crowd continued to grow as TV news and animal control officers rushed to the scene. Animal control officers put the lizard in a cage and hauled it away to the Humane Society animal shelter.

No one has stepped forward to claim the lizard, which is being handed over to an animal rescue group that specializes in finding homes for reptiles.

"I definitely had fun that day," Espinola says.

Espinola says he's skeptical that there's another lizard living in his neighborhood. "What are the chances?"

After hearing all the rumors about the lizard eating birds and squirrels, Espinola says some parents, including himself, weren't letting their children play in their backyards.

But if there is another lizard creeping through the neighborhood, Espinola says he isn't afraid. "Believe me, I would catch it."

Connie Green says Espinola saved the neighborhood from the hissing, green reptile. "He's our hero," she says.

Green was there when the small media circus broke out on her street. She pet the lizard that once terrorized the neighborhood.

She doesn't think there's another lizard. "I think we have our own Big Foot."

Green believes that if there were a four foot lizard in the neighborhood, dogs and cats would be missing. "That's like the size of an alligator."

The odd story of the loose lizard has spread across the state. Green's daughter in Grass Valley heard the news on a local television. Green's sister, living in Oregon, heard the tales, too.

Malaga Way resident Bob Baisa shrugs his shoulder when asked if he believes there's another lizard living nearby. Baisa calls his once quiet street Lizard Lane. "Every time I talk to someone it gets bigger and larger," he says.

On July 21, Mike Mitchell stepped forward and said the four foot lizard on the loose may be his pet lizard, Pepe.

Eleven months prior to the sighting on Malaga Way and Aragon Drive, Mitchell's Asian water monitor escaped its cage. Mitchell, a Willow Glen resident, lives about four miles away on Coe Ave.

The Humane Society's Mayeda agrees says there probably isn't a second, larger lizard crawling through the neighborhood.

"It's really hard to say," she says. "We're still actively following the case."

And although Espinola caught the famous lizard, he has no plans on adopting it. Says Espinola: "Are you kidding? My wife would kill me."
Chantal Lamers

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