ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - It all started with a phone call from a teacher at St. Martin North Elementary School. The kids were kept safely inside as firefighters were called out to capture a lizard from a tree.
"We figured it was something like an iguana or something small," Jackson County volunteer firefighter Tony Wechselberger said.
"We were told it was three feet long, so we said, 'Oh that's not going to be anything too bad,'" fellow volunteer firefighter Carl Verwey said.
That three-foot long lizard turned out to be a nearly six-foot long crocodile monitor, a relative of the komodo dragon. A bit beyond their range of expertise, firefighters called on Kimberly Klein, an exotic pet store owner. From Burmese pythons to tarantulas, she's seen it all. But this was a first.
"I get all kinds of things, but I've never been called out to get a crocodile monitor out of a tree," Klein said.
During their first attempt, Klein volunteered to capture the lizard by ladder.
"She told us about the teeth and the claws, and we were kind of glad she was going up the ladder, not us," Verwey said.
After the ladder attempt failed, the firefighters brought out the hoses. The incident dragged on for nearly three hours until finally the lizard was tranquilized and sprayed down.
"He's got a little gap in his side from the dart. That's not really a problem for him. We're worried about the stress on him, though that can take a toll, and it can go either way," Klein said.
The pet shop owner now caring for the lizard said crocodile monitors are native to Indonesia and can get as much as 15 feet long. No one is sure where the animal came from.