It’s not every day that wildlife authorities in Georgia would need to warn members of the public to be on the lookout for an exotic lizard South American lizard, but here we are. Mind you, while the warnings about the tegu lizard were directed to the residents of Tattnall and Toombs Counties in south Georgia, that doesn’t mean that we here in the northern part of the state should ignore the warnings about this invasive species.
Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is working to find and trap the tegus after several sightings and subsequent trappings over the last couple years. While the adult tegus documented in Georgia averaged just under 2 feet in length, they can grow up to 4 feet and weigh 10lbs. or more. Tegus aren’t very picky when it comes to food, either. They are known to eat plants, vegetables, fruit, small mammals, and the eggs of ground-nesting birds and reptiles. But of most concern is the fact that they eat the eggs of American alligators and gopher tortoises, which are both protected species. Of added concern is the danger that tegu lizards are capable of spreading exotic parasites to native wildlife, causing bacterial contamination of crops. So far, research shows that tegus, like most reptiles, carry salmonella, too.
Wildlife officials have ramped up their efforts to stop the proliferation of the invasive lizards because of how quickly they multiply, how quickly they grow in size, and how far they range. Georgia DNR officials warn that if tegus become well-established in the wild, they will be nearly impossible to eradicate. In addition, studies have found that they have adapted to hibernate in cooler climates by keeping their body temperatures higher.
It’s believed that tegus arrived as pets, likely in Florida, then were released illegally in the wild, starting the spread. That’s why it’s becoming illegal to own tegu lizards in many states. They’re not native to Georgia, and the state’s wildlife laws don’t protect them. While residents can trap and kill them on private property with the landowner’s permission, animal cruelty and local ordinances still apply. To help biologists document these occurrences, Georgia DNR is asking the public to do their part for the state’s ecosystem by taking a photo of the lizard, if possible, and reporting sightings (dead or alive) either online, by email, or calling (478) 994-1438.
Because this is currently their most active season, tegus are coming out of their burrows to mate and find food. Because some have been known to attack dogs, keep an eye out for your small outdoor pets, as well.
Whether you’re concerned about tegu lizards or any other nuisance wildlife such as, raccoons, snakes, skunks, or many others around your house, call the wildlife removal specialists at Wild Trappers. Our state-certified wildlife trappers utilize safe and humane trapping and removal techniques to trap and remove unwanted guests from your yard or house. In addition to removal, we can go the extra mile with a host of related services to repair animal damage, clean up droppings and waste, sanitize the affected area, and sealing potential entry points to ensure unwanted pests don’t come back.
We look forward to serving you soon!