Capturing an escaped gecko is a straightforward, if occasionally difficult, task. While you may get lucky and see your pet dart across the wall while you are watching TV, it is usually necessary to search innumerable potential refuges to find the escapee. However, by keeping him trapped in a relatively small area, using clues to determine his exact location and searching at the right time of day, you likely can find your lizard.
Narrow Down the Search Zone
As soon as you realize your gecko has escaped, try to minimize the area you must search. Most escaped reptiles tend to remain close to their cage initially, so close all doors, windows, air vents and other passages in the room to prevent your pet from making his way into the rest of the house or, even worse, outside. Use duct tape, rolled up towels or heavy books to block escape routes, but always keep your gecko's safety in mind. Be sure books will not topple and crush your pet and cover the sticky side of any tape used.
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Look and Listen for Clues
Look and listen for clues that may help you discern your gecko's current hiding spot. You may see gecko feces or urates stuck to the wall or on the floor, or you may be able to find little pieces of shed skin. Geckos -- particularly large species -- may knock over or otherwise disturb items as they travel. Additionally, you should listen for vocalizations if your gecko's species and gender demonstrate such behaviors. Even if these clues do not point to his exact location, it may help you determine the path he took from the cage, which should help you find him more quickly.
Specific Search Strategies
You should tailor your search strategy to match the lifestyle, behavior and habitat preferences of your lizard. This will help ensure you are looking for your lizard in places and at times during which you are most likely to cross paths. Generally speaking, you should adopt one of three approaches, based on the species in question.
Nocturnal, Terrestrial Species
The category includes: leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius), fat-tailed geckos (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus), Madagascan ground geckos (Paroedura pictus), frog-eye geckos (Teratoscincus przewalskii) and banded geckos (Coleonyx spp.)
Look for nocturnal, ground-dwelling species to begin crawling around and searching for prey around dusk. Turn out the lights in the room and search for the lizard with a flashlight. Look along the floor, and be sure to check behind and under your furniture. Geckos do not need much room to hide, so be sure to check every nook and cranny near the floor.
Nocturnal, Arboreal Species
This category includes: tokay geckos (Gekko gecko), house geckos (Hemidactylus spp.), crested geckos (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) and leaf-tailed geckos (Uroplatus spp.)
If your tree-dwelling gecko escapes, he is unlikely to descend to the ground. In most cases, he will cling to the walls or furniture, as though they were trees. After turning out the lights in the room, use a flashlight to help find your pet. Watch for the light's rays to bounce off your pet's eyes -- the same technique many biologists use while searching for geckos in the wild. Be sure to look behind bookcases, refrigerators, curtains and electrical panels, as well as above and inside your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
Diurnal, Arboreal Species
This category includes: day geckos (Phelsuma spp.)
Unlike nocturnal geckos, who have your diurnally tuned eyes at a disadvantage, day geckos (Phelsuma spp.) are active when you are most likely to be moving about your house and when your eyes work best. While you will not need a flashlight, you will need to check the same type of hiding spots that you would if you were searching for a tokay or crested gecko. If the gecko is in a room that you spend a lot of time in, you may not even need to search very long -- he is likely to cruise around the walls at some point, where his bright colors are likely to catch your eye.
Use caution when trying to catch species with fragile skin, such as most day geckos. In these cases, it is best to try to catch the lizard with a clear plastic cup or similar device, rather than your hands.