Lizard bite: getting more than you bargained for
People say animals are stupid. But after seeing a father proudly watching his kids teasing a wild goanna, I’m thinking it’s the humans that should be smarter. Goannas and other large lizards are capable of a really nasty bite and that dad was letting his kids take a big risk.
Goannas, dragons and monitor lizards are known for lots of things, but oral hygiene isn’t one of them. These amazing critters feed on all sorts of stuff, including the rotting flesh of dead animals. And they don’t floss. So their mouths develop into breeding grounds for many types of dangerous bacteria capable of causing dreadful infections if one bites you.
What about feeding them?
There are lots of reasons why I’m not a fan of the idea of feeding wild animals: It leads to the animals depending on you. It fills them up with an unbalanced diet. Things like bread might be poisonous to them (that surprises most people). It can make the wild animals aggressive. And it can cause the animals you’re feeding to chase other wildlife out of the area. Feeding big lizards has another risk attached to it because those big lizards are likely to think your hand is part of the food.
This very large Monitor Lizard seemed to think my camera was food
When I was in Kakadu National Park the guide for our group told us a story. He said he once caught a frilled-neck lizard so the tourists in his group could take photos. While he was catching it the critter swung around and bit him on the leg. The bite didn’t hurt all that much, at first. But the infection that resulted from that bite became so bad the guide wasn’t able to work for two months.
What are your chances of being bitten, then?
Goannas and other big lizards are not likely to attack people unless you frighten them or attack them, or try to feed them. Those kids I saw teasing the goanna were grabbing it by the tail, making the goanna swish its heavy tail about. Apart from the fact that its tail can hit with enough force to knock down a small child, grabbing a goanna is a really stupid thing to do. It’s exactly the kind of thing that can get you bitten. When I explained to the father that the goanna bite is really nasty and that his kids were taking a big risk he just ignored me. Like I said, it made me think the dad was less intelligent than the goanna.
Perhaps I should have also explained to the stupid dad that when a goanna gets spooked it will sometimes run up the nearest tree, and because there were no trees nearby then the goanna might run up him instead. I have heard stories of that happening. You see, just standing there watching is a great way of imitating a tree, the way a goanna sees things, and the goanna is not a fussy creature. Maybe that would have encouraged stupid dad to control his kids a bit better.