FOSTER CITY, Calif. (KTVU) - A Bay Area woman returning from a Cancun vacation got quite the surprise earlier this month when she opened up her suitcase to unpack.
Tucked inside her bikini top was a spiny-tailed baby iguana that had decided a bathing suit was a good spot to nest.
Blair Fingerhut, of Foster City, immediately contacted the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA which evaluated the reptile and treated him for dehydration.
“She had put her bathing suit out to dry on the balcony of her hotel room, and the next morning, packed up her belongings in her suitcase,” said PHS/SPCA communications manager Buffy Martin Tarbox.
The animal had been through quite a lot. After getting packed up into the suitcase on a Friday, Fingerhut flew home and didn't unpack until Sunday, according to Tarbox.
"When she was unpacking she noticed this iguana had made its way from Mexico with her," Tarbox told KTVU. "It was a miracle that it survived all of those elements," she added.
Spiny-tailed iguanas are native to Mexico and Central America, according to experts.
They range in size from 10 inches to five feet.
This particular one measured only 3 inches so he was very young, Tarbox noted.
“Since it was a wild animal who self-imported to California, we reached out to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the USDA to determine the best course of action with this iguana,” PHS/SPCA said.
Animal care officials learned that the iguana did not have to get quarantined or sent back to Mexico, so they found an animal sanctuary which specializes in reptiles like spiny-tailed baby iguanas.
The sanctuary is located in Los Banos in Merced County and Fingerhut took it upon herself to transport the animal there herself.
"She felt so bad even though it was not her fault," said Tarbox. "She became very invested in this little guy," she added.
Apparently it is not that uncommon for animals to stow away in travelers' suitcases, clothing, and especially camping gear.
Animal care officials recommend carefully shaking out clothing and camping gear before repacking to avoid inadvertently transporting animals from their native areas.