Sightings of Large Invasive Lizard Species Reported in Aiken County Area | News
Reported sightings of a large, invasive lizard species crawling in and around Aiken County could be problematic for native species in the South Carolina Midlands.
South Carolina has documented its first black and white tegu lizard, a popular species in the pet trade, in Lexington. A social media post from the SC Department of Natural Resources in May informed the public of the non-native lizard already established in Georgia and Florida, likely as a result of release or escape.
SCDNR staff are monitoring the situation closely and have received several reports since May from Lexington and Aiken counties.
No earlier reports could be confirmed, the department reports.
The lizard removed from Lexington County was an adult female measuring about 2.5 feet long; however, black and white tegu lizards can grow up to 4 feet long and weigh more than 10 pounds as adults, officials said.
Tegus are voracious omnivorous lizards that eat a variety of prey, including birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, fruits, vegetables, insects and eggs, reports the SCDNR.
“The introduction of any non-native species can have serious negative impacts on native wildlife. Black and white tegus are no exception,” said SCDNR herpetologist Andrew Grosse, “Tegus mature and reproduce rapidly, although of greater concern may be their preference for eggs and the potential impacts on our native nesting birds. ground like turkey and quail, as well as other species such as the state-endangered gopher tortoise.
Although tegus are omnivores and eat a variety of plant and animal matter, they are not considered a threat to pet dogs and cats, reports the SCDNR.
The Florida Wildlife Agency is not aware of any predatory attacks on pets in that state. However, it is not recommended to leave pet food outdoors as it can attract tegus and other wildlife.
Anyone who sees a black and white tegu in the wild is encouraged to report sightings to the SCDNR by emailing [email protected]
Observers are invited to submit a photo, location and time the lizard was seen.
More information on black and white tegus, including natural history and identifying characteristics, can be viewed at https://georgiawildlife.com/tegus.