A Gecko in Need is a Friend Indeed

Here is a true story of a little gecko who found himself in quite a precarious situation. Luckily for him, things turned out much better than they could have!

A few months ago after I was newly moved into my new home, I noticed the apartment had a bit of a problem with roaches. I made numerous calls to maintenance and the office over the next several weeks and they sent someone to spray once or twice a week to try to fix the problem before it got any worse. It seemed to be working, but I wanted to make sure – I needed a way to objectively measure if the problem was actually getting better.

Enter the Roach Motel. This is an unobtrusive little box that seemingly smells irresistible to roaches. They climb in and get stuck in the glue coating on the inside of the box so they can’t get out. I was keeping track of how many I would catch in the boxes and paying attention to whether or not the numbers of catches were going down as the number of times my apartment got sprayed went up.

Roach Motel

Next character in this story – a curious little Gecko I’ll call Dexter.

Dexter is the proud father of 37 little geckos, all hatched in the last 4 years. While he has been a mostly absent father (as is the gecko way) he does secretly watch over them as they grow into adulthood to make sure they are eating enough and not joining any insidious gecko gangs.*

*story added for dramatic effect

Gecko On Window

Dexter popped into my apartment unexpectedly, but I welcomed my little house guest with open arms. I figured he might appreciate a nice roach dinner so I gave him free reign of the place while I went out to spend the evening with friends.

That night when I came home, I did my usual rounds to check on the roach population within the roach motels. To my dismay, I saw little Dexter stuck within the confines of one of the boxes! I could tell he was alive, but he was so incredibly stuck that he couldn’t move even his head to ask for help.

Lizard checking into roach motel

I felt awful that I didn’t think about this happening. Obviously Dexter smelled fresh roach meat in one of the boxes and thought they were ripe for the picking. What he didn’t know was that by jumping into the box it would very likely be his last meal. Actually, the even sadder part was that his mouth was nowhere near the roach he was after, so he could see it but could not even take a taste with his stretchy little lizard tongue.

I felt helpless. I knew I wouldn’t be able to just pull him out. The glue was so sticky that if I even tried I was sure I would only succeed in ripping him apart piece by piece. It seemed like such a horrific way to go, but I knew there was just nothing that I could do. He was a goner.

NO! I couldn’t let Dexter go out like this. I went to my trusty phone and pulled up Google. I scoured the web for any tips on how to free lizards from sticky traps. It seems I was far from the only person who has had this problem! I found page after page of people begging for help to save their scaly friends. Finally I came across a site that gave step by step instructions on how to save a lizard (or bird, hamster, turtle, small child, or anything that might somehow come in contact with a sticky trap).

The first step was to cut around the lizard to make it easier to free him. I didn’t want to cut too close to him, as I would risk accidentally amputating a toe or a leg.

Lizard stuck

Next – you need some Q-Tips and any kind of oil. Olive oil, baby oil, sunflower oil… anything of the sort. I happened to have olive oil so I poured some in a little dish and grabbed a handful of Q-Tips.

It was slow work. You had to wet the Q-Tip with the oil and slowly rub it around the outline of the lizard, being careful not to push too hard on him and crush his tiny bones. As the oil worked its way underneath his limbs, head, and tail, you needed to gently move them around (being careful not to allow them to get stuck in another area of the sticky trap). You don’t want to use too much oil either as that isn’t good for lizard skin, so I didn’t douse him with it to make it easier. As I worked free his head, tail, legs, and arms, I cut away that portion of the trap so he couldn’t get re-stuck.

Working him free

It took a good 45 minutes to an hour, but Dexter was finally free! He rested on a damp paper towel (which also helped to remove some of the excess oil from his skin) for a little while to get over his trauma.

Free lizard

After he had time to relax, I took him downstairs to put out onto the grass near our pond. I put him on a nice soft patch of green and he stood there for a second before I swear he looked back at me and mouthed “thank you” before scurrying off into the night.

I did my good deed for the night, and I learned a valuable lesson. If you are going to have lizard house guests, DO NOT allow them to run around unescorted. You never know what kind of trouble they can get into.

On another note – my roach problem seems to be completely gone! I have not seen any of those little monsters in my traps for at least a month now, which makes me feel confident that I can get rid of them all and hopefully invite Dexter over for some tea and mosquitoes.