Rare, non-native lizard species spotted in South Carolina

LEXINGTON, SC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A rare lizard has been spotted in South Carolina and wildlife officials are sounding the alarm bells.

FOX 46 had the chance to speak with a coordinator of a local reptile and amphibian rescue about the non-native “black and white tegu,” and why there might be more roaming around.

“I had a lot of concern from the public,” said Andrew Grosse.

Grosse works with the DNR Reptile and Amphibian Center.

“We always try to be 100 percent sure before we post that there are more running,” Grosse said.

South Carolina documented its first sighting of non-native species at Lexington. It was a rare sight for the Carolinas.

“We’ve had a few unconfirmed reports at Columbia and Aiken. The one from Lexington was the first we were able to get a specimen that was what we thought – it was a black and white tegu, ”said Grosse.

The adult female found at Lexington was about two and a half feet long. Black and white tegu lizards can grow up to four feet and weigh over ten pounds as adults, but don’t be too concerned if you come across one.

“They are not likely to be aggressive, but like any other wildlife, if threatened they will definitely defend themselves,” Grosse says.

Lizards are omnivorous and eat frogs, lizards, and other small mammalian birds. The Department of Natural Resources is concerned about ground-nesting birds, such as turkeys and quails.

“Anytime you introduce another species into an ecosystem, it will upset your balance, especially a high-level predator like a large lizard.”

The lizard species is popular in the pet trade, which may explain how we ended up here. Grosse says it’s probably as a result of a release or escape. Wildlife officials say do your research before buying one as a pet.

“If you’re fed up, there are rehabilitation centers that will take them. Please don’t just let them go.

Please report any sightings of black and white tegus in the wild to Andrew Grosse, [email protected]. If possible, please submit a photo, location, time and date the lizard was seen.

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