Escaped reptile caught after roaming free for nearly a month

Friday, July 18, 2003

BENTON, Ill. -- On the loose for nearly a month, a large amphibious lizard was reunited with its owner after being captured in a field of wheat near Lake Moses.

Joanna, a 20-pound, 6-foot-long Asian water monitor, was captured Wednesday. Her odyssey began June 18 when she escaped from her cage and took refuge in the Lake Moses area.

In the weeks that followed, some residents expressed concern about the lizard, which was sighted occasionally but evaded capture by slipping back into the lake or the ponds that surround it.

Then, on Wednesday evening, Daryl Burkholder was talking to some friends when Joanna emerged from a nearby pond.

"When she saw us she ran out into the wheat field," Burkholder said. "The lizard could run about as fast as we could."

The four men kept the reptile surrounded until the Franklin County Sheriff's Department arrived with Derek Freeman, Joanna's owner.

"She never would attack us. Never at any time would I say she attacked us. But she didn't like being surrounded, so when she felt threatened she would charge at us and hiss," Burkholder said.

After avoiding capture for nearly a month, Joanna was rendered immobile as soon as Freeman tossed a bed sheet over her head.

"She calmed right down and he just wrapped her up with her head covered," Burkholder said.

"He didn't have to tie her up; he just put her in one of my mulching trucks."

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