Imagine the following scenario: you wake up one day, and you find your bearded dragon missing. That’s it, this is the entire setup. You have no hints on what happened or where your beardie might have gone, so the entire situation may seem perplexing at first.
You know your bearded dragon cannot fly or teleport out of its habitat, so it couldn’t have gone far. But you can’t find it anywhere, so what now?
Believe it or not, this is somewhat of a common issue among bearded dragon keepers. So, let’s discuss it! But first, we’ll look into the main reasons why bearded dragons escape or seek to escape their habitat, to begin with.
Common Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Escape
Interestingly, there are quite a handful of reasons that could drive bearded dragons to escape.
- Because they can, plus boredom – Bearded dragons are active and curious animals that need mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. If they are not provided with enough toys or activities to keep them occupied, they may try to escape to explore their surroundings. Their excursion is made even easier by a poor habitat design with plenty of escape routes, which your dragon will be thrilled to test out.
- Inadequate enclosure – Bearded dragons require a specific environment that mimics their natural habitat. If their enclosure is too small or lacks the necessary heat, lighting, and substrate, they may try to escape to find a more suitable environment.
- Hunger or thirst – Bearded dragons are instinct-driven animals. If they are not provided with enough food or water, they may become desperate and try to escape their enclosure to look for sustenance elsewhere.
- Mating season – During the breeding season, male bearded dragons become more aggressive and territorial. If they are kept in a small enclosure with other males, they may seek a way out to find a mate or leave the tension-filled environment. Dominant males can get quite aggressive towards the bettas, so violence is almost guaranteed to ensue. Also, the risk of males climbing out of their enclosure is higher if the females are in a separate but close-by enclosure. Females will attract the males with their pheromones, and the mating call can be too strong for the males to resist the temptation.
- Improper handling – If a bearded dragon is handled improperly or feels threatened, it may try to escape to avoid danger. These are reptiles, which already tell you everything you need to know about their lifestyle, mental state, and living preferences. Keep the handling to a minimum and be gentle about it when close interactions are necessary. Stress your reptile too much, and it will try to escape.
- Improper placement of accessories – It’s important to remember that bearded dragons are active, energetic, and inquisitive animals. Providing them with accessories, such as logs or rocks that are placed too close to the top of the enclosure, enables them to use said accessories as stepping stones to climb out.
- Poor enclosure maintenance – If the enclosure is not cleaned regularly or if there is a buildup of feces or uneaten food, it may attract insects or other pests that could make the bearded dragon feel uncomfortable and try to escape. If that’s not possible, your beardie will become stressed and sick soon, which is arguably even worse.
Now that we’ve detailed the main reasons why bearded dragons attempt to escape their enclosure consider the following addition: securing the enclosure better isn’t the right answer.
It is necessary to prevent the reptile from escaping, that’s for sure, but it shouldn’t be the only solution.
The actual solution is to correct the reasons that have driven your reptile to want to escape in the first place.
Finding Your Lost Bearded Dragon
So, you’ve just noticed that your bearded dragon is nowhere to be found. Now what? Now, consider the following:
Setting Up a Search Strategy
The first step in finding your lost bearded dragon is to set up a search strategy. This should include a plan of action, a list of potential hiding places, and a timeline for conducting the search.
You should also consider the weather and time of day when planning your search if your beardie was housed in an outdoor setup.
As a general rule, it’s important to start searching as soon as possible, as bearded dragons can easily become dehydrated and stressed when they are lost.
Not to mention additional risks, such as encountering other animals that could view them as food, or escaping onto the highway.
Checking Common Hiding Places
The next step in finding your lost bearded dragon is to check the most common hiding places.
Bearded dragons are known for hiding in small, dark spaces, such as under furniture or inside boxes. They may also hide in warm, humid areas, such as bathrooms or laundry rooms.
Check all of the rooms in your home, including closets and cabinets, and look for any signs of the reptile, such as shed skin or droppings. Unfortunately, bearded dragons don’t leave many traces behind them, so these are some of the few signs to follow.
If your bearded dragon was housed outside, look for the animal in the nearby bushes, under the stairs, near rocks or trees, or anywhere that looks like a good hiding spot.
The reptile is most likely stressed due to finding itself in a completely new ecosystem, so its first instinct is to hide in a dark and tight spot.
Using Food and Lures to Attract Them
Bearded dragons are attracted to food, so one effective strategy for finding your lost pet is to use food and lures to attract them.
Place a dish of fresh greens or insects in a warm, humid area, such as a bathroom or laundry room, and wait for your bearded dragon to come to the food.
You can also use a live cricket or worm as a lure, placing it near a heat source to make it more appealing.
Just make sure there aren’t any other animals around that could consume the lure instead. Most importantly, monitor the setup because your beardie may simply come by, consume the food, and be on its way.
Using Heat Sources to Attract the Dragon
Bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals that require heat to regulate their body temperature. One effective way to find a lost bearded dragon is to use heat sources to attract them.
Place a heat lamp or heating pad near a dish of food or a hiding place, and wait for your bearded dragon to come to the heat source.
You can also use a reptile heating mat, which can be placed under a hiding spot or near a favorite basking area. This works better indoors simply because there are fewer places where your beardie could hide, and the search area is smaller.
But it can also work outside as well, especially at nightfall when temperatures drop, forcing your beardie to look for a warmer spot.
Get Help from Others
Finally, if you are having trouble finding your lost bearded dragon, it may be time to enlist the help of others. Post flyers in your neighborhood, and contact local pet stores and animal shelters to see if anyone has found your pet.
You can also join online forums and social media groups dedicated to bearded dragon owners and ask for their help in finding your lost pet.
This is basically a last-resort solution after you’ve already exhausted all other options.
Tips for Preventing Future Escapes
Whether you’ve managed to recapture your beardie and want to secure it or simply try to prevent it from escaping in the first place, the following tips are for you:
- Secure the enclosure – Make sure the enclosure is secure and free of gaps or openings. This can include using a secure lid or screen top to prevent your bearded dragon from climbing out. However, make sure that, by doing so, you don’t impact the enclosure’s ventilation. This can lead to temperature and humidity increase, which will impact your beardie’s health dramatically.
- Monitor the temperature – Bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals and require a specific temperature range to thrive. Ensure the enclosure is maintained at the right temperature to prevent your bearded dragon from seeking warmer or colder areas outside of the enclosure.
- Provide adequate food and water – A bearded dragon that is properly fed and hydrated is less likely to try and escape the enclosure in search of food or water. Ensure they are provided with fresh food, diverse meals, and clean water on a regular basis.
- Keep the enclosure clean – A dirty enclosure can attract insects or other pests that may encourage your bearded dragon to try and escape. Maintaining good enclosure hygiene and maintenance should prevent such situations and provide your beardie with improved comfort and a healthier ecosystem.
- Avoid overstimulation – Bearded dragons require mental stimulation, but too much stimulation can cause stress and may lead to escape attempts. Ensure that the enclosure has enough space and is not cluttered with too many accessories or decorations. Bearded dragons need open space to move around freely so that they won’t feel trapped or overcrowded.
- Supervise outside playtime – If you allow your bearded dragon to play outside of their enclosure, always supervise them closely. Ensure they are in a safe, enclosed area and cannot escape or leave your sight. This is also necessary to keep any potential predators away because bearded dragons don’t have too many defensive behaviors other than fleeing and hiding.
- Provide proper lighting – Bearded dragons require specific lighting to maintain their health and wellbeing. Ensure that the enclosure has proper lighting, including a UVB light source, to keep your bearded dragon healthy and happy. Most importantly, your beardies should have a healthy day/night cycle to regulate their circadian rhythm properly.
As a general rule, beardies have no reason to leave their enclosure if they feel safe, comfortable, and at peace there. This alone should be enough food for thought.
Bearded dragons are escape artists, given their drive for exploration and climbing.
Secure your habitat properly, eliminate the reasons that could drive your beardie to escape its enclosure, and monitor your pet regularly to detect any problems in time.
A healthy and happy beardie won’t typically attempt to escape its enclosure.