Dog-Size Lizards Spreading Into Texas And Louisiana From Florida

UPDATE 3: The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that scientists at Georgia's Department of Natural Resources are concerned with additional sighting of the Argentine black-and-white tegu in the wilds of southeast Georgia. They've asked the public to be on the lookout and contact the DNR so the agency can continue to locate and remove the animals before they can thrive in greater numbers.

UPDATE 4: USA Today reported that a Florida retiree has singlehandedly captured at least 117 Argentine black and white tegus from the woods and neighborhoods in his area. 60-year-old Sid Pennington has been so successful at trapping the invasive lizards that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has recruited him as a volunteer and started supplying him with traps. The former nuclear power plant employee says he's always been a big fan of reptiles. He had the following comment on his new hobby/vocation:

"I don't want them to be here. But it is fun."

The Argentine black-and-white tegu is native to South America, but National Geographic says the large lizards are taking over in the Florida Everglades and have started popping up in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama. Louisiana, and Texas. Biologists say the creatures are omnivorous, eating pretty much anything they can fit in their mouths. They're also extremely hardy, so it's tough to reduce the population or control the spread once the species becomes established in an area.

Like other Florida invasive reptiles, tegus got a foothold in the wild after many escaped captivity or were released by pet owners. Tegus have been breeding in South Florida for more than a decade, but have only recently begun to spread to other states.

The lizards are described as docile and intelligent, but they will happily eat any smaller animals, fruits, or vegetables they can get to, making them a threat for pet owners and farmers.

UPDATE: According to the Sun Port Charlotte, these tegus have sparked a battle between the Florida state legislature and reptile fans. Florida passed a law last summer adding the invasive lizards to the list of banned species, meaning people could not own them except for education, research and eradication. The U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers argued the new law was unconstitutional and convinced a judge to rescind the legislation. Now the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded by proposing an expansion of its own regulations with similar restrictions on tegus and green iguanas.

The FWC will likely move forward with the expansion at their next virtual meeting on February 19. And you know we'll keep you updated whenever dog-size lizard news breaks.

UPDATE 2: South Carolina is the most recent state to ban non-native Argentine black and white tegus from being imported or reproduced. According to The Summerville Journal Scene, has joined Florida and Alabama in a ban on breeding and new acquisitions of the species. The reptile has been a popular pet in years past, and current owners are now required to register their tegus with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The invasive lizards have now been documented in multiple S.C. counties and the new regulations are aimed at stopping the proliferation before it gets worse and really starts to damage the ecosystem.

Photo: Getty Images

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