Invasive 4-foot lizard threatening wildlife in Georgia, officials say

Black and white Tegu lizard at Iguazu Falls the waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the Brazil Argentina border

If you head to Georgia or have family there, and they see the Tegus, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is asking to report the sightings so that they can work toward eradicating the things.

Jensen explained that wildlife officials are working to remove the lizards, because they could have a negative impact on native species.

According to the DNR, the Argentine black and white tegus' were spotted in the Toombs and Tattnall counties in southeast Georgia and can weigh 10 pounds or more.

The lizards, which are native to South America, are sometimes mistaken for baby alligators, Jensen said.

The Argentine black and white tegus, which are not native to the US, were first spotted in Florida - but now, officials believe the lizards have established themselves in Toombs and Tattnall counties in Georgia, John Jensen of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Conservation section said in a YouTube video. They can live up to 20 years, and can survive colder months through a reptilian version of hibernation, according to Georgia's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website. "And one of their favorite foods eggs from ground-nesting animals, such as gopher tortoises, our protected state reptile", he shared, adding that the animal also eats the eggs of turkeys and quail. They can also displace animals by taking their burrows.

A black and white tegu
Georgia faces invasive giant lizard species, wildlife officials say

Tegus "eat just about anything they want", state biologist John Jensen said in a video from DNR. "They can lay about 35 eggs a year".

"Although not considered aggressive toward people, tegus will defend themselves if threatened", the website says.

And they multiply fast. "They have sharp teeth and claws and strong jaws". Officials are hoping to eradicate the species from the state by trapping and humanely euthanizing them.

While the lizards are legal as pets in Georgia, it is illegal to release them into the wild.

This article has been updated.


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