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Four-Foot-Long Invasive Lizards Are Threatening Georgia Wildlife

Georgia Wildlife News
by Eben Diskin May 14, 2020

We already have coronavirus and murder hornets, so it makes sense than 2020 is throwing some four-foot-long lizards into the mix.

Apparently, Argentine black and white tegu lizards are spreading in Georgia and pose a significant threat to native wildlife. The lizards can grow up to four feet long, weigh over 10 pounds, and have a worryingly wide-ranging diet.

While the lizards don’t pose a threat to people or household pets, they do eat fruit, vegetables, plants, pet food, bird and reptile eggs, and small animals like grasshoppers and young gopher tortoises. According to John Jensen from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the lizards are known to displace animals by attacking their burrows, especially those of the gopher tortoise, a reptile that is protected in the state of Georgia.

Daniel Sollenberger, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Conservation Section told Insider, “Tegus are predators that do not belong here. We’re asking residents in the area to report them, which helps us assess the problem and remove tegus. It also helps if they can provide photos. People unfamiliar with tegus might mistake native animals such as juvenile alligators and even fence lizards with these invasive reptiles.”

The Argentine lizards are native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina, but they have become a problematic invasive species both in Florida and in the Toombs and Tattnall counties in southeast Georgia. To prevent the spread of the species and protect the native wildlife, officials are hoping to eradicate the lizards by trapping and humanely euthanizing them. The DNR is asking residents to report any lizard sightings to the agency.

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