Georgians urged to keep an eye out for large, invasive lizards that ‘eat almost anything’

The Georgia Wildlife Agency is once again asking residents to report sightings of an invasive lizard that may pose a threat to native species.

The State Department of Natural Resources is trying to locate and eliminate South American Tegus of Georgia before the lizards could thrive in greater numbers. So far, the only known wild population in the state has been found in Toombs and Tattnall counties in southeast Georgia.

“Warming temperatures will cause the tegus to shift across southeast Georgia,” the agency said in a news release.

Black and white argentinian tegus
The invasive species has infiltrated the United States as escaped or released pets. They are “voracious predators that consume a variety of wildlife native to longer-established Florida populations,” according to the Orianne Society.

The Orianne Company

Wildlife officials hope to prevent the black and white lizards from spreading further. They can be up to 4 feet long and weigh up to 10 pounds, and have a varied appetite that favors the eggs of turtles, alligators, and ground-nesting birds.

“They can live almost anywhere and eat almost anything,” said MNR wildlife biologist Daniel Sollenberger.

“We are focusing our efforts on achieving two goals: documenting the extent of tegus presence in the southeast Georgia wilderness and removing these animals as soon as possible after they are detected,” Sollenberger said. “With locals, hunters and others helping us monitor and control tegus, we are cautiously optimistic about our ability to control this population.”

Authorities aren’t sure exactly how tegus were introduced to the wild in Georgia, but they are commonly kept as pets.

Last year, the DNR removed a single tegu that was spotted on a game camera and later caught in a trap. Seven were recovered, dead and alive, in 2020.

That year, the agency released a YouTube video warning residents about the creatures.

Have you seen Tegus in the wild in Georgia? by
GeorgiaWildlife on Youtube

MNR Wildlife Technician Supervisor Jim Gillis said this year’s agency-led trapping will include continuous tracking cameras that can be focused on live traps.

“Using the cameras remotely will help reduce the time it takes to check traps,” Gillis said.

Wildlife officials warn that if tegus become established in the wild, they will be nearly impossible to eradicate. Wild populations have also been found in South Carolina and Florida. Trapping at a site along Everglades National Park can produce hundreds of lizards each season.

The Orianne Society, which is dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians, also warned of invasive lizards. “Established from escaped or released pets, these large lizards are voracious predators that have been found consuming a variety of native wildlife in longer established Florida populations,” the society wrote. Oriana on Facebook.

Tengus aren’t the only invasive species plaguing Georgia. Researchers recently stated that Joro Spidera large arachnid native to East Asia that proliferated in Georgia last year, could expand to much of the East Coast.

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