Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

When Your Iguana Gets Lost: Indoors and Out

Sooner or later, it is going to happen. That really secure enclosure really isn't, or you are just venturing into the realm of free-roaming time, and your iguana is doing what iguanas are going to do: hide in case you find them and plop them back into their enclosure, the last place they want to be.

©1994 Melissa Kaplan


Inside The House
In The Office (From the Iguana's POV)


Inside the House
One thing I've found through the years is that no matter how carefully you have searched everything, you haven't. Either that, or herps have mastered the cloak of invisibility and can disappear as you get near, rematerializing once you've passed by...

Do another search, this time one room at a time. Tear everything apart. Look under the covers on the bed (one of my igs loved to cling to the side of the mattress - laying horizontally! - under the bedspread...). Feel up your clothes, check in your boots, check the high shelves. Carefully check the full length and width of drapes and blinds. Check behind things on shelves.

When you are done with that room, exit, close the door, and stuff a towel under it to block any little beastie from getting in or out (obviously, this is only necessary if the beastie is small enough - but remember how squishy herps can be when they are suitably motivated...).

Do this room to room. Use a hand mirror and flashlight to check behind and underneath furniture (including that wall-to-wall bookcase/entertainment center that takes five people to move) and appliances. Check on the rungs of chairs; behind the VCR or cable box. Check upholstered furniture carefully to see if there are any holes in the fabric that would allow an iguana to crawl into it. Don't just inspect warm places because all too often they are like little igcicles when found.

After you have gone through absolutely everything, check the closed rooms again to see if the iguana has emerged.

Make a note of any holes under cabinets and appliances and inside cabinets that you found during the course of your search, and, when you have found your iguana, go around and duct-tape all those openings - just because the iguana didn't find them this time (that you know of) doesn't mean he won't next time!

Depending upon the ig's nutritional status and health when it got out, and if he is hiding someplace warm or cool, he may or may not come through this escapade without any problems. At best you will have a cold but healthy worst, it will be reaaaally cold and dehydrated. When you find them, warm them up gently - you don't want to raise their body temperature too rapidly - and put fresh water and food in their enclosure.

Igs tend to hide the same places after awhile, so once he's been out a couple of times, you will know where to look first. The more the iguana is allowed out, the less they will hide over time to the point where they stop hiding altogether.

Favorite places

  1.    In the fireplace (until I started leaving the fire curtain open and the interior completely exposed
  2.     Behind the frige (till it got tired of my using the stick to get it out or having friends move it).
  3.     Clinging to the bedding on the side of the bed under the quilt (till I started saying "Hi, Wally!" and putting the quilt back down and walking away)
  4.     Perched on the shelf in back of some carriers in the snake room (see #3)
  5.    In the bathtub (see #3, and when I starting just lifting them out and placing them on the floor in the bathroom and walking away).
  6.     On the windowsill hidden by the curtains (see #3)
  7.    Under the chair, hidden by the skirts, hanging out with the tegu and gopher snake (don't ask....see #3 above)
  8.     Perched atop the pile of stuff on the guest bed making like an education artifact ("Sea turtle boot, alligator skull, cobra wallet, stuffed iguana...wait! I don't have a stuffed iguana!")
  9.     Behind the pillow used for my bad back on my chair (beats a pile of poop on same any time!)
  10. In bed....with the tail running the wrong way so I get scale burns when getting in myself (see #9).

Are you beginning to detect a pattern here? Good! You will discern the same patterns with your own iguanas, too.

The first rule for searching for iguanas out side is this: don't look for them! Well, look for them, but do it in such a way as you will be likely to actually find them.

Divide the outside area into smaller sections. Sort of unfocus your eyes and just stare at an area, and be quiet - don't move around and don't think. Let your eyes take in all the shapes and subtle movements, and let your brain do the sorting...if the ig is there, it will suddenly 'jump' out at you. If no ig, start on another area. Repeat when you have reached the end of the area.

Remember that your bright green ig may not be looking so bright green if sitting in a dull green tree on a dark brown branch or on dappled sunshine...thus one of the reasons for not actively looking.

3 ft green iguana in Panamanian rainforest canopy.
©1995 Smithsonian Institute

Photo of a 3 ft. green iguana by Carl Hansen, chief of the photographic branch of the Smithonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Taken from atop a 100 ft tall crane above the canopy.

Click photo to see larger image.

Do your initial searches in any warm areas - up against walls, anywhere where it will get nice and toasty from the sun, even on a cooler day.

Look at the best times - when the iguana is sure to be out basking in the mid to late mornings, and mid afternoons - where the best sun exposure in combination with leafy cover is.

You might also want to go out at night with a strong flashlight...researchers found that when they checked on iguana sleeping positions at night the igs did little but glare at them briefly before going back to sleep...but they chose different sleeping perches out of that area the next night just in case those rude things came back to disturb them some more.

Iguanas: How To Get Lost in Your Keeper's Office, At Home, and Elsewhere

Rule #1
If there is any way out, no matter how small or squished it takes to do it, do it!

Rule #2
Think magical thoughts, and disappear into thin air when you are being searched for.

Offices present unique opportunities for driving your keepers mad with grief, anxiety and the possibility of becoming abruptly unemployed.

  • Desks have wonderful obscure dark little ledges to lay on which requires a human to grovel on their knees to check out.

  • Office equipment offers unique places in which to hide - nice and cozy and often warm.

  • Be sure to check out the insides of the copiers (if you can get out of your enclosure, you can probably squish into the narrow openings down by the floor around the copier.

  • Water cooler stands are usually hollow inside...see if you can squish in there.

  • Even if you have just had your nails clipped, many wall coverings offer excellent opportunities for climbing one form of the corporate ladder.

  • An excellent alternative to climbing the wall (leave that to your keeper!) is to climb up the back of furniture, cabinets etc. Many are festooned with electrical cables providing a vine-y, jungle-like joy ride. Some are made with interesting materials like peg board.

  • Given the right angle, feel free to do some free-climbing up the apparently unscalable slick horizontal sides of book cases and cabinets. As ye can squish, so can ye inflate.

  • Book cases are also very nice. Often loaded with objects too heavy for you to dislodge, you can scale them to the uppermost--or, just to be different, the lower-most--shelves and scrunch in on top of the books or files as far back as you can get. Rapid lowering of your body temperature in the non-temperature controlled environment will ensure that you don't make any inadvertent moves that might give your location away.

  • Remember to sneak around behind their backs. Once they have searched an area thoroughly (and, given how impatient they are, you know they are always less thorough than they think themselves to be!), sneak in and hide.

  • Ignore food and heat traps set for you. Remember, if you stay cool, you can survive for a week or more...just don't get too cold!

  • Be sure to explore the inside backs of closets, or see if there is anyway to scale to the uppermost shelves in a closet, then tuck yourself back out of sight.

  • Take advantage of any piles of papers, supplies or equipment that you can wriggle under - especially ones that have been around so long that no one really "sees" them any more.

Rule #3
When caught, play dumb. Name, rank and serial number only. Bide your time...there will always be another opportunity!


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