As the owner of a fairly large group of geckos I’ve had my fair share of gecko escapes during the past 10 years. The sweetest ones, of course, are the geckos that come back.
Editor’s Note: We published how to find an escaped gecko four years ago.
The first leopard gecko I ever owned, with the highly original (not) name of “Specko”, somehow managed an impossible escape and went missing for four days. Specko was housed in a 20 gallon long tank with no climbing features. One night I left the slide-out top of her tank open about 2″. To this day, I haven’t figured out how she managed to climb up 12″ and get through that small opening. She was found 4 days later in fairly good health except for a mashed tail tip. No idea how that happened either.
A year or so later, I came back from a weekend out of town and, checking on my gold dust day gecko, I caught site of her tail hanging down from the side of the enclosure. The only problem was that it was on the outside of the enclosure, not the inside. She had escaped right under the nose of my weekend gecko feeder who hadn’t even noticed.
Eragon the Escape Artist
Eragon, my 10 year old Tremper albino leopard gecko, hasn’t escaped often, but his two adventures were highly unusual. His first escape occurred one night when I left his cage door ajar. Usually when leopard geckos escape in my house (almost always because I’ve left a cage door open), I will find the gecko under the couch. This time I searched all over for days and found no trace of him. I had given up when, three weeks later, I got a call from my downstairs neighbors. They had just opened up the linen drawer in their built-in corner cabinet, and guess who was sitting on top of the tablecloths?! most likely, Eragon had crawled under the pocket doors and fallen through the wall into the cabinet downstairs.
His next escape happened a few days after I transferred him to a smaller, front-opening cage to give him a break from the ladies (and vice versa). Since the cage had been previously occupied by another male leo (no longer in residence there), Eragon was unhappy with his new accommodations. I failed to notice this as I went to check on him while I was engaged in a long distance phone call. As I opened the cage door, Eragon shot out of the cage and made his way across the living room floor at top speed. I grabbed for him and in the process got the phone cord tangled around a computer chair that was in the room. Eragon didn’t take kindly to being grabbed and promptly bit me. The wound started to bleed copiously. There I was, tangled up in the phone cord and the chair, clutching Eragon in my shirt to keep him from getting away and bleeding all over everything. I never did explain to my friend why I had to hang up so quickly.
Oh No, Not the Rack
I don’t like racks. I prefer my geckos to be in glass enclosures so I can see them and they can see the world. I do have one 16-tub rack that serves as my overflow housing during baby season. When I first bought the rack, I didn’t realize that the 6 quart tubs were not quite high enough to insure a tight fit. I had several hatchlings escape never to be found alive again. One, however, surprised me. I lost a hatchling Coleonyx variegatus (SW banded gecko), about the size of a quarter. I gave up on it immediately. I live in an old house with many nooks, crannies and cracks in woodwork and plaster. Imagine my surprise 4 months later when I caught sight of a brown and yellow banded little guy dashing under my coffee table. It took a few weeks and the aid of an article about finding escaped geckos to catch him, but I finally managed. He was a little thin, but had done fairly well on a diet of small crickets and spiders.
One afternoon I heard an unusual sound coming from my kitchen, sort of an “eh-eh-eh” sound. I went in to check it out and found my tangerine leopard gecko parading back and forth on the floor making that funny sound and my two cats watching it warily. This was unusual since both cats were veteran gecko hunters. It was either the noise or the swagger that kept her safe.
The Greatest Escape
A few weeks ago, I purchased a female juvenile L. williamsi (electric blue day gecko) and installed her in a planted Exo-Terra enclosure that I had been “growing” for some time. I’ve had a fair amount of experience with L. williamsi escapes since my male has gotten out several times. They are arboreal geckos and when they escape, they tend to head upwards. Usually all it takes is the patience to wait for them to head “up” and a good fish net.
The day after installing my new L. williamsi in her cage, I noticed that she didn’t seem to be there anymore. I realized that I’d left the sliding cable panels at the back of the Exo-Terra open and she had wasted no time gaining her liberty. I spent the rest of the day chasing her around with the fish net. She would climb up the wall and as soon as I tried to catch her in the net, she would jump down to the floor and run under the furniture. Finally, toward the end of the day, she disappeared behind the molding above one of the doors in the dining room. The next day, armed with a pry-bar and a willing husband, we moved the heavy knick-knack laden piece of furniture away from the “door to nowhere” in my dining room and pulled off the molding. No gecko. No gecko for 3 days, morning, noon, or night. On the fourth day, I stopped home during the day and there she was, up at the top of the wall. After another ten minutes of slapstick chasing with stools balanced on top of chairs and the fish net, I finally managed to get my hands on her when she jumped to the floor. She’s safely installed in her cage now, but I’m nervous every morning when I come down to check on her.
There’s no substitute for extreme caution when caring for and housing geckos. It’s crucial to make sure everything is securely closed and to be careful about opening cages with fast-moving geckos. If the escape does happen, planning, ingenuity and a large helping of luck can often restore the lost gecko.