Look out for big invasive lizards creeping around Georgia, S. Carolina

Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 6:23 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An invasive species of lizard has made its way to southeast Georgia, just outside the CSRA, and experts are worried it could cause problems with our local animal populations.

The animal is an Argentine black and white tegu. As the name suggests, they’re originally from Argentina and other parts of South America.

But because of pet trading, they’re starting to pop up in parts of Georgia and South Carolina.

“There were 12 captured in 2019 and we have captured five this year,” Lance McBrayer, curator of herpetology at Georgia Southern University, said.

These reptiles are an invasive species, meaning they can do damage to any ecosystem they’re not native to.

“It eats everything from literally squash in someone’s garden--or strawberries--to small amphibians and reptiles. It really has a penchant and a liking for eggs,” McBrayer explains.

Right now, in Georgia, they’ve only been spotted in Toombs and Tattnall counties, just south of the CSRA. In South Carolina, there have been confirmed sightings in Aiken County.

“They tend to move a lot. They don’t just sit around like you might see a lot of our native lizards doing. They could walk miles in a day,” McBrayer said.

They won’t attack you if you don’t provoke them, but they could be harmful to local tortoises, snakes or quails. McBrayer says it could be five to ten years before we actually see negative impacts from these animals.

He says two places in Florida have trailed the lizards for nearly 20 years and have had bad agricultural impacts.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources says if you see one, write down the date, time, and location and take a picture if you can. Then, let them know so they can come out and try to catch it.

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