Blue-tongue lizards, a type of skink, are great for your garden – a fact sadly lost on many uninformed Yukoners.
Those in the know will gladly welcome these friendly little critters into their yards, even when they are molting. They will grow up to a foot long and help to control unwanted beetles, spiders, snails and slugs.
They may also attack your cat, as in the case of our mate, Lionel the lizard.
Blue-tongues may also eat dog food left outside for Rover and they show their tongues as a form of defence.
You must be careful while mowing the lawn as a blue-tongue is very stoic in the face of danger and will stand its ground while showing its tongue. This form of defence is not very effective against a lawn mower, though, and can be quite messy.
Australian aboriginies will eat blue-tongue lizards, roasted over an open fire on a stick. But then, they will also eat witchitie grubs, which are meant to taste like caramel. I steadfastly refuse to eat lizards or grubs for any reason.
Food and water are stored in the blue-tongue’s tail, which may be dropped in times of danger and later regenerated. Mating is meant to be quite a rough affair, which leaves me with a rather disturbing visual.
They are cold blooded and need heat to warm up before hunting the daily quota of bugs, snails and whatnot.
The blue-tongue’s main worry in urban areas, besides pesky lawn mowers, is cats. Not so with Lionel.
During a housesit in Sydney, one of our responsibilities was to care for four cats. As I was dragging the old barbie out of the shed one blistering hot day, I spotted Lionel on the shed floor staring down one of the cats.
Apparently our mate Lionel has had a go at a couple of the cats and come out on top, so now all of the lizard hunting ends up in a Mexican standoff.
My wife tells a story about an eight-foot long lizard, a perentie, that used to terrorize unsuspecting bus package tourists on their way up to Darwin in the Northern Territory.
The bus would stop at a predetermined place on the way to fire up the barbie and cook some steaks. There are public electric barbecues all over the shop in Oz where for a 20-cent coin – sometimes more, sometimes free – you can cook a meal.
At this particular place, once the meat was on the barbie the perentie would slither out of the bush and grab a steak off the grill, much to the consternation of the tourists.
The bus driver, familiar with the game, would get the broom he had on hand for sweeping sand out of the bus and give the perentie a few strokes. The lizard would then slither back whence it came and everyone would stop screaming.
I myself have seen a family of seven standing on a picnic table while a four-foot long lace monitor stared at them malevolently from a few feet away on the ground, its tongue flicking in and out.
We have never had a bad experience with a large lizard yet, but a kookaburra did swoop down and steal the last piece of back bacon off a plate my wife was holding one time.
She is still angry about that one.