Lizard name Markhor escapes from private zoo, settling in somewhere, but needs to be found before he freezes to death in winter

Markhor made a run for freedom last month from the Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in Hamilton, Ontario but if he’s not found soon, the colder weather could be deadly for the lizard.

By now, Markhor — a three-year-old Nile monitor — has probably found a burrow near a water source in a place without too much foot traffic, says Paul “Little Ray” Goulet.

“I said at the time that if we didn’t see him in the first 24 to 48 hours, and he gets settled in, it could take a while before he’s found,” Goulet said to CBC Hamilton on Monday.

“He has to find a place where he has access to water, shelter, and somewhere to bask in the sun. And food — but that being said he could live close to a year without food… The longer it goes, he’ll lose some fat reserves and become more active.

“The elements are our biggest concern now.”

Goulet says Markhor, whose name means snake-eater in Persian, will be fine outside until late October or whenever temperatures start to go below zero at night.

“That’s when our heart will start to hurt a little,” as sustained cold temperatures will kill him, said Goulet, who earned the nickname Little Ray young in life by being a smaller version of his dad, (big) Ray.

Markhor went missing June 19 while the back door at Little Ray’s, at the corner of Barton and Gage streets, was left open. There was a reported sighting at Barton and Wentworth streets two days later, but no sign of the lizard when the Little Ray’s team searched the area. Goulet thinks the call was a hoax, and believes the lizard’s most likely destination is a pond located in an industrial area just east of Little Ray’s.

Markhor weighs about three pounds and would eat small mammals such as squirrels and mice, roadkill, small birds and pet food that has been left outside.

Monitors are immune to poisonous snake venom, so could also eat those if given the opportunity.

On the other hand, Markhor could be prey for a coyote, domestic dog or even a large cat, said Goulet. 

“Hopefully if that has happened somebody would report that to us.”

Monitors move “lightning fast,” and would only be a threat to a human if they somehow managed to catch one, said Goulet. 

“If you were to grab it and restrain it, it would behave like any wild animal,” he said. “If you’re successful, it’s going to hurt… The chance of somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing even getting close to him, let alone catching him — it would be a miracle.”

Anyone who sees Markhor shouldn’t approach it, but take a photo and call the zoo at 613-807-6889 or Hamilton Animal Services at 905-574-3433.

If he does find his way home, Goulet is considering holding a public event to allow members of the community who have been following his story to see him in person.

“The worst thing somebody could do for us is try to catch it,” Goulet cautioned. “We’re going to show up with eight or 10 people and nets and a plan. Even then he could be difficult to catch.”

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Peg Fong is also in recovery from newspapers

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