Tips for Finding an Escaped Pet Reptile

There's a moment of panic when you discover that your reptile has escaped its enclosure and is now lost somewhere in your house - hopefully in your house.

Usually, the first step to take when you don't immediately see your reptile basking on a stone or curled in its hide is to systematically dismantle the enclosure - and with good reason. Reptiles often find ingenious ways to use their enclosure decorations as hiding places.

Small lizards and snakes can burrow under their water dishes, tree-dwelling lizards can camouflage themselves in decorative plants, turtles can hide themselves in the shadows created by their floats. Certain snakes coil under their bedding, hiding themselves completely from sight.

The dismantling should proceed carefully - taking your time to ensure you don't injure your pet by roughly setting a moved stone atop it is critical. Gently shake and remove plants, lift out hides and other decorations, carefully comb your fingers through the bedding (if applicable). Often, this thorough search will reveal a reptile that has simply found a new resting place. If a search doesn't result in you finding your reptile, then the next steps commence.

Depending on how long it's been since you last saw the reptile in the enclosure, the wisest thing to do is to search the immediate area. This area alone will often have several tight and dark places that you should investigate, either with a flashlight of by carefully (very carefully) scooting furniture away from the walls. If your tank is raised the inch or two recommended when you use under tank heaters, then check there too - snakes, especially, will seek out the warmth.

Now, the discouraging part. If you've searched the enclosure and the immediate area without finding the reptile - especially if it's been more than a few hours since you last saw it - then you're forced to admit that it's somewhere in the vast wilderness of your house. Hopefully the room its enclosure is in is sealed off - if so, you've lessened your work exponentially.

If not, there is still plenty of hope - just for a bit more effort.

The most common process for finding a lost reptile is fairly straightforward, regardless of the type of reptile. If you've determined that the room the enclosure if in was sealed - for instance, if the door was closed - then chances are the reptile is still in that room, though the likelihood drops if it's been a few hours.

Search the room visually, peering into any cracks. Panic levels should remain low at this point. It hasn't been very long (hopefully) and the chances of the reptile dying immediately is low.

Even if the visual search of the room(s) failed, there are still some helpful steps to take.

Move high wattage desk lamps to the centers of any rooms that might be harboring the reptile - set it up so that it's relatively close to the floor. Place a dish of water and a bowl of food under each light's beam to make the locations even more tempting for a lost reptile (if dealing with a snake, place a thawed mouse/rat in a small box set on its side and partially cover the entrance with a towel or blanket).

At this stage, you might want to place flour around the locations, so your reptile will leave telltale signs that it's been there and has at least had the option of eating. Shut off the other lights in the rooms and wait - hopefully within a few hours you'll find your reptile basking under one of the lights.

Follow these steps - repeatedly, if necessary - and be patient. Lost and escaped reptiles have turned up after upwards of two months and been fairly healthy because their owner left out food and heat sources everywhere.