Reptilian tradition lives on

by Mattie Hanson

The iguana enclosure in MSUM’s science department didn’t sit empty for long. A poster hangs on one side of its glass window, and hiding behind it is a shy, female iguana, still adjusting to the new space and hundreds of students walking past.

The department’s former cherished lizard, Curie, died on March 15. Hearing MSUM was in need of a new iguana, a Detroit Lakes family decided to donate theirs, which they could no longer care for. After they emailed Todd Nolte, a laboratory service specialist in the biosciences department and the iguana caretaker, he agreed to take her off their hands.

“This family’s son went off to college and the parents were stuck with it,” Nolte said, adding he was happy an older iguana was given, so MSUM didn’t have to buy a younger one.

“Iguanas are easy to care for because they are vegetarians, but baby iguanas would have needed more attention,” Nolte said.

Nolte said he noticed the department’s new, 3-and-a-half-year-old addition was “calm and sweet” when he visited her previous home, adding that MSUM’s seventh iguana has been settling in pretty well, but that she remains “a little scared” and, as a result, can have an “explosive temper.”

“We’re now just getting to the point where we can pet her,” Nolte said. “We won’t be able to take her out and handle her for a while.”

Nolte said at first, the iguana would nervously run laps around her enclosure, and he was worried she’d hurt herself. The poster in front of her will be taken down once she’s better adjusted, he said.

Nolte said the iguana has stopped running laps, and is slowly adjusting to her many visitors. People are welcome to meet her, but Nolte asks they respect her space.

“It’s fine if people come over and take a look at her, but just don’t crowd around her and try not to make a bunch of noise,” he said.

Nolte said he hopes spending time with her over the summer will get her comfortable enough to leave the enclosure and meet people around campus like Curie did.

She came to MSUM with the names Precious and Princess, but Nolte plans on changing it to something science-related, just as Curie was named after physicist Marie Curie. In the fall, students can vote on a new name, Nolte said.

With a new name and a new environment, the new iguana continues an old campus tradition.

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