S.C. legislators pass reptile bill to fight non-native species in state

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT
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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - With tegu lizards and other non-native species popping up around the state, South Carolina legislators passed the reptile bill last week to protect the area from the reptiles.

“This protects South Carolina’s resources,” said Rep. Bill Hixon, R-Aiken.

The measure sponsored by Hixon serves two purposes: It makes it illegal to release any non-native species, like tegu lizards, into the wild. It also makes it illegal to own a certain number of some species like box turtles without a permit.

Hixon says people were taking the turtles in South Carolina and selling them overseas.

“South Carolina’s natural resources were leaving SC and going to a foreign country, and we were losing our natural resources,” Hixon said.

Lt. Wayne Hubbard with the Department of Natural Resources says a law like this already exists in Georgia.

“We regulate the possession and importation of wild animals, non-native animals, into the state,” Hubbard said.

He says they’re hoping to keep the spread of tegu lizards down, but it’s not easy. Georgia law allows you to have the lizards as pets without a permit. It just prohibits you from releasing them into the wild.

“It makes it difficult because when it comes down to trying to figure out who did it, it’s harder to make changes when it’s difficult to find out who actually turned it loose,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard says if the lizards start breeding in the two-state region, DNR may never be able to fully eradicate them.

DNR says if you’ve seen any tegu lizards, take a picture if you can, take down the date, time and location, and send it to them.

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