Tegu lizards: an invasive species of giant lizard has made its way to the southeast

The Argentine black and white tegu is native to South America and feeds on the eggs of ground-nesting birds, according to the Georgian Ministry of Natural Resources. They are up to 4 feet long and can weigh over 10 pounds. They also eat fruits, vegetables, insects and eggs.

Wildlife officials fear that invasive species will compete with native animals for food and other resources, cause habitat damage and transmit disease. Invasive species can attack native wildlife, so the department has a strategy to conserve native species and their habitats statewide.

Lizards also have few predators, so they can multiply quickly.

It is not known how they were released into the wild, but tegu lizards are legal as pets in many states, so it is possible that a domestic lizard was released, either intentionally or accidentally.

In Georgia, Natural Resources Department officials began investigating reports of tegu in eastern Toombs and western Tattnall counties in May.

The department works with the US Geological Society and Georgia Southern University to trap animals in order to eliminate them and assess their population. Trapped tegus are euthanized and their diet and reproductive status documented.

In August, there was a confirmed sighting in South Carolina, the first. Wildlife experts ask residents to document where they see the animal so they can track its whereabouts.
Lizards are also known to occupy Florida, with official observations in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Saint Lucia and Charlotte counties.

Tegus don’t pose a great threat to humans, but they can bite.

Comments are closed.