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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Dobie: Readers weigh in about Italian wall lizards on Long Island

Italian wall lizards in Babylon

Italian wall lizards in Babylon Credit: Cathy Dobie

I got a lot of feedback -- in email and posted comments -- from people responding to Sunday's column about the presence of Italian wall lizards all over Long Island.

Readers reported seeing them in West Hempstead, Franklin Square, Westbury, New Cassel, Carle Place, New Hyde Park, Bellmore, Wantagh, Lindenhurst, West Islip and Riverhead, as well as my community, West Babylon.

One reader, Leanna Giaquinto, wrote in with some childhood reminiscences and asked that I share them with readers. So here you go:

I grew up in West Hempstead and my mother still lives in the house I grew up in, not far from the place where these lizards came from. "Baby Boomers" and anyone older from West Hempstead probably know the story of how they spread.

There was a garden nursery called Gardener's Village on the corner of Cherry Valley Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike that had flowers, plants, fish, sea life, little animals such as hamsters and gerbils and birds, and a parrot who talked to everyone. They also had little turtles, lizards, and snakes. Just after Thanksgiving all of us would go each year to see Santa Claus and his 8 live reindeer! Many families purchased our Christmas trees and ornaments there, too.

One year when I must have been very young, a delivery truck had an accident while delivering the Italian wall lizards and they went scampering out of the truck. A study was done and the migration of the lizards was documented from block to block in West Hempstead and Garden City (our neighboring town) over the next years. There were homes and businesses built, soil trucked from place to place and lizards transferred from place to place across Long Island.

These fast funny animals still hop all over my mother's yard, and memories of how kids at school pulled jokes on each other in the school lockers of West Hempstead High are some of my best ones! Please share the updated information with your readers about how Long Island got populated with lizards. Thank you.


Leanna Giaquinto

There are two variations of the story of the lizards' spreading that Leanna mentions here.

The other version is that the pet store deliberately released them because they were not selling. I'll confess: I like Leanna's better.