Local insects and animals – goanna

It’s summer time again (almost Litha as a matter of fact) and we have hens hatching chickens here and there. This always seems to draw the goannas in. 
The goanna, or lace monitor, is a very large lizard which grows up to 2 metres long. They eat pretty much anything they can catch; baby birds, eggs, mice, rats, frogs, snakes and carrion. 
There are several species of goanna in Australia, but here in Northern NSW we tend to find the common Lace monitor (Varanus varius) and the Sand goanna (Veranus gouldii). It is the Lace monitor who comes to visit the humpy most often, due to their liking for young birds and eggs.
A well fed Lace monitor

Once our hens begin to hatch their eggs around Ostara (spring equinox) the goannas begin to visit; stalking up and down the fences looking for a way in to the newborn chicks. At times it seems that we are under attack from them as it isn’t uncommon for two or three goannas to be trying to get in at the same time.
The lace monitor is territorial and the same three individuals come back to our yard year after year. There is the big male (goannas have an internal penis which extends out of their cloaca when they pee, which they do by lifting one leg slightly off the ground, like a dog. Which is how I know he is a male) he has a shortened tail due to some long ago accident. There is a big female (I think) who has smaller than usual pattern bands and a young female. We have not named any of them as names have not occurred to us yet.

Stag; the ram guarding a treed goanna.

When a goanna approaches the yard fence our galahs (two car accident victims who can’t fly) give a screech or two, which starts the chooks off cackling, triggering our three dogs protective instincts and causing much barking. If the sheep are close to the house they join the chorus as well. As you can imagine, this din makes it impossible to continue studying, so I go out and release our goanna dog; Spot.

This is Spot; our goanna dog

Spot is 15 years old and since he was a puppy his job has been to escort goannas away from the chook pen. He does this by running towards them growling profanities until they turn tail and run for the nearest tree. He occasionally catches up to them before they get to the tree, but he doesn’t bite them, he just bumps them with a closed mouth (to keep the panic level up), we didn’t train him to do this, but we’re glad he doesn’t do any lasting damage. Once the goanna is climbing it’s chosen tree, Spot sits at the base for an hour or so then comes back to the house for a pat, leaving a relieved goanna to cautiously climb down and sneak away. Stag, the ram will take over guarding a treed goanna for Spot as he prefers to be king of his paddock.

On the lookout for dogs and rams.

A lot of people kill goannas on the grounds that they eat the eggs and chickens if they can, to which I usually reply “So do we”. We don’t resent them, and I refuse to kill an animal simply for trying to survive. We lose most of our guinea fowl eggs and all the duck eggs to the goannas, even the occasional chick which strays through the fence, but that is the way of nature. I shed a tear for the mums who lose nests and babies and we move on.
How do you react to goannas?

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One thought on “Local insects and animals – goanna

  1. Pingback: Why we don’t let our dogs chase anything | Chronicles of a humpy dweller

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