tampabay.com

Lizardman says he's not the only collector

A couple said he was not the trespasser found in their yard.

By RITA FARLOW
Published December 6, 2006


Lizards, beware: There may be more than one "Lizardman" prowling the town.

When Kathy and Joel Dougherty saw a man in their yard in the middle of the night on Nov. 28, they called St. Petersburg police. Mr. Dougherty said he was told that it was "the Lizardman," who had called in and told them he'd be searching for anoles in their neighborhood.

For years, dispatchers have gotten calls from Jules Restina, police spokesman Bill Proffitt said. Restina collects lizards and sells them for a small profit to supplement his income.

Restina denied being in the Doughertys' yard. "I never work in that area," he said.

After seeing a picture of Restina in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times, the Doughertys confirmed that the man who has been on their property is not Restina.

Mr. Dougherty said the man he's spied in his yard is younger and stockier.

So who has been collecting lizards in west St. Petersburg?

Jules Restina said he knows of several people who collect lizards.

"There is a guy in Pinellas Park named Mike, and (west St. Petersburg) is the area he works," Restina said. "There are several people. Police will come up to me and say, 'I saw a guy collecting lizards the other night, but it wasn't you. Who's that?' " Restina said.

But Restina said he is the original Lizardman, who calls police to tell them where he'll be searching for the night. "I usually tell them what clothes I'm wearing and what car I'm traveling in," Restina said.

Restina said he calls the police to tell them where he'll be in case they get calls about people in the alleyways late at night.

Restina said he collects the lizards from midnight to dawn, because they sleep at night and are easier to catch once they've "resituated" themselves for the night.

Proffitt said he was aware of only one "Lizardman" that calls in to report his whereabouts. "We associate monikers with names and there's only one Lizardman, which is the same guy communications center knows about," Proffitt said.

Is collecting anoles a big business?

Ray Van Nostrand, owner of Strictly Reptiles in Hollywood, said his business buys about 5,000 anoles per week, some from Restina.

"A lot of them go to pet stores and a lot go overseas," Van Nostrand said. "Zoos buy them to feed to their birds. They make good pets, too."

The lizards typically sell for $1.50 to $3, Van Nostrand said.

Restina said he has caught more than a quarter of a million lizards over the years, and maybe as many as a million. But the longtime lizard collector said he never ventures on to private property.

"I've had no run-ins with anyone in the community," he said. "I'm just collecting lizards. I'm not hurting anyone."