INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH, Fla. – After the top of his screened enclosure caved in, Pascal the chameleon escaped into the wild under cloak of darkness, eluding capture — and hungry predators — during an eight-month Indian Harbour Beach adventure, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
The small, slow-footed lizard was finally captured this week near Ocean Breeze Elementary, roughly 1 mile away. Critical clues were gleaned via photos, messages and updates posted in the Nextdoor app's "Lost & Found" section.
"Those power lines right there run all the way through Indian Harbour Beach," said Pascal's owner, James Lombardi, pointing at a utility pole near his apartment in The Dunes.
“So I’m guessing, through the winter and the colder season, he was using the power lines and the transformers as a source of heat to survive. And then he would find a cable that came down into people’s yards,” he said.
A Pascal spotting
On Wednesday, Lombardi said a woman on Dorado Way, a short residential street near Ocean Breeze Elementary, contacted him and reported she had spotted Pascal "in a monsoon of brush" and greenery. He and his wife, Ashley, drove over and retrieved their missing chameleon, who was perched atop a branch.
“I’m excited to have him back. I’m very excited. I love him. Absolutely love reptiles,” Ashley said, watching Pascal during a FLORIDA TODAY photo shoot.
"So, when we lost him, I was really upset about it," she said.
Pascal is a veiled chameleon. He was purchased from PetSmart for about $120 in Bricktown, New Jersey, as a 10th birthday present for Trinity, their daughter. She named him Pascal after the chameleon character in the 2010 Disney animated movie “Tangled.”
Measuring about 1 foot long, Pascal typically eats mealworms, superworms and crickets covered with calcium powder. His changing colors range across a kaleidoscope of greens, yellows and oranges.
He vanished in early November. James suspects that Grey, their pet cat, caved in the top of Pascal's screened enclosure while jumping to scale their backyard fence.
Trinity said she cried after Pascal disappeared.
James joined Nextdoor on Monday — and said he was shocked to see a photo of Pascal atop a utility line. Eyewitnesses had spotted the chameleon on nearby Flotilla Club Drive, three blocks away, and the Ocean Breeze Elementary neighborhood.
He suspects Pascal traversed Indian Harbour Beach using north-south utility lines that originate behind the former Memaw’s BBQ, near his apartment.
Chameleons in Florida
Introduced as escaped or released pets, six chameleon species have been spotted in the wild in Florida — and two are known to be breeding, the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area reports.
"Their feet and tails are specialized to grasp tree branches, and they walk slowly, swaying like a leaf in the wind. They have large, cone-shaped eyes that rotate independently, and very long tongues that they extend rapidly to catch prey," the Everglades CISMA website describes.
In September 2018, a veiled chameleon was spotted in Titusville by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer. That lizard was photographed just west of Interstate 95, near North Carpenter Road.
Veiled chameleons are breeding in rural Fort Myers, the Everglades CISMA reports. They feed on insects, small frogs and lizards — and even the occasional small mammal or bird.
When James rescued Pascal, he noticed a hawk circling overhead.
"That's what I really thought happened: I didn't think he'd have been here anymore. I thought for sure some wildlife would have wound up getting him," he said.
James is building Pascal a new, larger 4-by-4-foot outdoor enclosure featuring a hibiscus tree, a Hawaiian ti and an orange torch ginger, among other greeneries.
James works as a home theater installer, and Ashley works at Best Buy in Melbourne. They have four children, ranging in age from 6 to 13. In the next few months, the family plans to move into a house and acquire a Philippine sailfin lizard.