Georgia residents are urged to keep an eye out for large invasive lizards that “eat almost anything”

Georgia is its wildlife agency once more residents are asked to report sightings of an invasive lizard that could pose a threat to native species.

The state Department of Natural Resources is trying to locate and remove it South American tegus from Georgia before the lizards could bloom in larger numbers. To date, the state’s only known wild population has been found in Toombs and Tattnall counties in southeast Georgia.

“Warming temperatures will be in motion in southeastern Georgia,” the agency said in a news release.

Argentine black and white tegus
The invasive species has infiltrated the US as escaped or released pets. They are “great predators found in consuming a variety of native wildlife in the longer established Florida populations,” according to the Orianne Society.

The Orianne Society

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

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

“We are directing our efforts to achieve two goals: document the extent of where tegus occur in the wilds of southeast Georgia and eradicate those animals as soon as we can after they are discovered,” Sollenberger said. “With area residents, hunters and other people helping us to monitor and control tegus, we are cautiously optimistic that we can control this population.”

Officials are not sure how tegus was introduced into the wild in Georgia, but they are normally kept as pets.

Last year, the DNR removed a single tegu that was seen on a game camera and later captured in a stairwell. Seven were collected, both dead and alive, in 2020.

That year, the agency released a YouTube video in which residents warned about the creatures.

Have you seen Tegus in the wild in Georgia? because of
Georgia Wildlife on YouTube

DNR wildlife technician supervisor Jim Gillis said this year the office-led trapping will include streaming trail cameras that can be aimed at live traps.

“Using the cameras remotely will help reduce the time required to control kicks,” Gillis said.

Wildlife officials warn if tegus are established in the wild, they will be almost impossible to eradicate. Wild populations have also been found in South Carolina and Florida. Trapping on one side along Everglades National Park can yield hundreds of lizards each season.

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

The tengus are not the only invasive species that plague Georgia. Researchers have recently said that the Joro spina large arachnid native to East Asia that proliferated in Georgia last year, could spread to much of the East Coast.

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