Edmund thought I was losing it when he overheard me talking to the brown anole in our backyard. Six weeks of semi-isolation can do that to a person. But before you rush to agree with him, let me give you some background information…first about me and then about brown anoles.
You might already know that I am an animal lover. I’ve always collected strays, and our home is not complete without a dog or the occasional cat. I am a big fan of insects, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. I was that weird kid who roamed her neighborhood with a flashlight on summer nights hunting for toads. After catching them with my bare hands, I kept them in a cage until my bedtime, at which point I released them. Okay, I realize this confession about my past might give credence to Edmund’s thoughts about my mental stability. But except for roaches, wasps, swarming termites, and those skinny-tailed “squirrels” that have taken over the French Quarter, I’m fascinated by animals and their habits.
This brings me to the brown anole, also called the Bahama Anole and the Cuban Anole. If you live in New Orleans, or just about anywhere in the Gulf South, you can’t help but be familiar with this invasive reptile. They apparently arrived in Florida as stowaways on ships from the Caribbean. Since then, they have migrated westward and settled comfortably in New Orleans. They have taken over our lawns and gardens. You can’t walk down the sidewalk without a herd of them scurrying across your path. They have diminished the number of green anoles by eating their eggs and offspring. I’ve read that the brown anole is more likely to be a terrestrial lizard, and the green ones have begun to adapt to life in trees as a form of protection from their cannibalistic cousins. I have not yet climbed the magnolia in the back yard to confirm that, but it is rare to spot a green lizard in our garden.
Which brings me back to my opening statement. I said I was talking to “the” brown anole. Why did I use the definite article “the” instead of the indefinite “a?” How do I know it’s a specific lizard? I can’t prove his identity, of course, but this is the third spring that I have seen a tailless brown lizard in the patio garden close to the house. He hangs out in this same area all summer, he’s gotten bigger each year, and this year he’s getting a little saggy looking, sort of like we do as we age. Or maybe he’s just molting. He also seems tamer, more like a pet than a wild reptile. He doesn’t scurry away when I approach or speak to him.
You probably think the previous paragraph also does nothing to support my claim of stable mental health. Think again. I’ve done research.
First of all, brown anoles can live up to eight years! They inhabit a specific area, staying somewhat inactive beneath leaves and logs during cooler weather, reappearing as the temperature rises. One of their defenses is to drop their cartilaginous tail to distract a predator who will go after the twitching tail while the lizard makes his get-away. In this lizard’s case, Whodat, our cat, had probably been the said predator. And, brown anoles are commonly traded as pets! Pets! People actually pay money for them, raise them, feed them, keep them in little terrariums in their homes! Talk to them!
So, my case rests. I am not losing it. I have joined the ranks of people who have pet lizards. It’s just that mine is a yard lizard who hunts his own food. He’s a stray, like my other pets. He doesn’t have a name…yet. However, when I do name him or if I hear him answer me when I tell him good morning, we can revisit the subject of my mental health.