Fourth-graders at All Saints Primary School on the South Hill were surprised when they found a big lizard warming itself on the playground last month.
They put the lizard in a bucket, then tried to talk their teacher, Theresa Groshoff, into letting them keep it.
But Groshoff explained the lizard wasn’t something that survives in Spokane and was probably someone’s pet that wandered from home.
So Groshoff persuaded her students to draw a poster and go around the neighborhood to find the owner.
“We all decided if it was their pet, they would like to have it back,” Groshoff said.
As it turned out, the pet owner lived just a block away from the Roman Catholic school at 3406 E. 18th.
Mary Pritzl showed up at school to reclaim her Australian grand lizard, a reptile nearly 2 feet long with soft spikelike protrusions on its back.
As a reward, Pritzl promised to give the children a baby grand lizard she is raising, and she appeared in class last Thursday to show off some of her pet reptiles.
It seems Pritzl is something of reptile rancher.
She has 15 adult lizards, 12 adult chameleons, 20 baby reptiles and 40 eggs in incubation.
The chameleon eggs take 260 days to hatch, she said.
Pritzl was injured in an automobile accident a year ago and has started raising lizards as pets while she has been recovering from a head injury, she said.
Some of the reptiles are valuable, selling at pet stores for as much as $250.
“They are a little hard to take care of,” Pritzl told the fourth-graders.
She said she was surprised when she found out her lizard had wandered all the way to the school grounds.
But the episode turned into a learning experience for the children, who took time to study lizards and learn more about the animal kingdom.
For example, Pritzl told them, the chameleons come from Madagascar and need to be in a tropical environment.
They don’t drink water. Instead, they lick up drops falling from leaves, she said.
By contrast, the grand lizards live in the desert of Australia and have a gland between their eyes, a so-called “third eye,” that helps them locate moisture, she said.
“It’s awesome. We learned a lot,” said fourth-grader Jack Busch.
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