South O’ the Highway

Derwood Hodgegrass Gives Up Monitor Lizards, Toads and Fingertip

For the second time this year, Southampton billionaire Derwood Hodgegrass caused quite a stir at a local exotic animal amnesty event.

At a special Illegal Reptile Amnesty Day in Bridgehampton on Sunday, Hodgegrass surrendered 15 illegal reptiles and amphibians, and lost half a finger in the process. Along with his fingertip, officials said the billionaire gave up eight monitor lizards and seven 4-pound hallucinogenic Australian cane frogs, apparently leftover from his foray into psychedelics and shamanism last year.

Just as he had at a similar event in May, Hodgegrass arrived with his animals in a silver Mercedes 18-wheeler and semi trailer, and proceeded to exit the back on a rolling cart, pulled behind all eight monitor lizards, each wearing a leather harness to help power the cart. “I’m saddened to give up my dream of creating the first-ever, all-monitor lizard land-sled team,” Hodgegrass announced to officials, police and onlookers. “It is a rather unfortunate day for the world of new sports, and I know my fellow inventors and gamesters in the Neosport community grieve with me—monitor sledding is not to be.”

The billionaire lost his fingertip in the jaws of a particularly large and muscular crocodile monitor, after frightened police forced him to stop approaching with his monitor-powered cart. Hodgegrass climbed out of the cart and attempted to prove his hissing pack of lizards was “safe” by stroking his crocodile monitor RuPaul’s neck. That’s when it struck his hand, removing and then ingesting the fingertip.

Hodgegrass’s screaming (and the blood spraying from his finger) created total chaos as his monitors tried to wrest themselves free of their harnesses. Meanwhile, the billionaire’s entourage carried him to an on-site medical station within his semi trailer. The truck left the scene moments after the bite, leaving Hodgegrass’s cart and eight monitors behind.

Animal handlers eventually sedated and captured the lizards, and on Monday, Hodgegrass’s staff said he was recovering and in good spirits.

Though Hodgegrass had already surrendered most of his illegal exotic animals, including a beloved Hamadryas baboon, at a similar amnesty event in May, he has admitted to keeping several monitors and toads at that time, and to acquiring several more large lizards, for a total of eight, during the last three months.

Sources say Hamptons Police were tipped off to the leftover illegal reptiles during the summer and had spent the last few months building a case. An arrest was expected toward the end of the month, but unconfirmed reports accuse Hamptons officials of hosting Sunday’s Amnesty Day specifically to collect the billionaire’s illegal animals and protect him from prosecution. The Suffolk County SPCA hosted another illegal reptile amnesty day at the exact same time in Smithtown on Sunday, so many are questioning the need for a second, Hamptons-based, event.

Coincidentally, in October, Hodgegrass donated $4 million to the local treasury, which will use the large sum to create a governmental spa with various Korean-style sauna rooms and Russian baths, available only to municipal employees and elected officials in the region. “Hodgegrass has not received special treatment in this case,” Hamptons Treasurer Lucy Pittakakis said in a statement Monday morning. “And he will continue not…to not receiving…won’t receive treatment that is special,” she continued, adding, “though his efforts to keep us relaxed and healthy are greatly appreciated by our police, teachers and all those who govern in the Hamptons.”

Monitor Lizard
Derwood Hodgegrass’s monitor lizard Ganon, Photo: iStock/Thinkstock
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