If You See This Giant Lizard in Your Town, Call the Authorities

Four-foot long lizards have been invading Southeastern states in the U.S.

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In the final act of 2020, giant dog-sized lizards, not native to the U.S., are invading the Southeastern part of the country. These four-legged creepy crawlers, which can grow up to four feet in length, are known as Argentine black-and-white tegus. And after either escaping or being released from captivity, the lizards are swarming some U.S. states, which could prove to be a significant problem for vegetation and local wildlife, according to National Geographic.

Tegus are considered an invasive species. If you see one of these lizards roaming around town, you should call the proper authorities for your region. Keep reading to learn more about these lizards, and for information on other troubling creatures you could come in contact with, If You See This Bug, You May Have to Quarantine.

Where did the tegu come from?

Argentine black-and-white tegu
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Although the lizard is only native to South American countries, the species first popped up in the U.S. as pets in Florida. After some were set loose, they quickly began to populate. Recently, the pest has been spotted making its way through Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia, according to National Geographic. And for another critter that made an unwanted appearance this year, You Can't Kill This Bug, Even If You Run Over It With Your Car.

Why are tegus so problematic?

Argentine black-and-white tegu
Shutterstock

The lizards are particularly undesirable because they eat "just about anything with nutritional value they can fit in their mouth," according to National Geographic. "They'll chomp on the eggs of ground-nesting animals such as birds and reptiles, including endangered sea turtles. They'll snack on doves and other small animals. They'll snag strawberries and other fruits and vegetables that grow low to the ground." And for intel on another frightening pest, Murder Hornets Present a Major Threat, But It's Not What You Think.

Can we get rid of the tegu?

Argentine black-and-white tegu
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Due to the catastrophic effects this animal could have on our ecosystem, eliminating the tegus before they establish a permanent population from the U.S. is the goal, experts say. "The hope would be eradication, but in all honesty, eradication is very, very difficult because you're searching for an unknown end point," Georgia Southern University herpetologist Lance McBrayer told Discover Magazine.

These pesky lizards are so destructive and rampant in Florida that the state recently banned residents from owning them. On June 29, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that bans the sale, import, breeding, and ownership of both the tegu and the green iguana in Florida, according to The Arcadian. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

What should you do if you see a tegu?

Argentine black-and-white tegu
Shutterstock

If you see this lizard, you are asked to contact the proper authorities in your state. Some states, like Georgia, have specific task forces designed to captured and rehome the reptiles. If you see a tegu in Florida, where they are most common, take a picture, note the location, and report it online to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. And for more fascinating animal trivia, check out these Animal Facts That Will Change the Way You View the Animal Kingdom.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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