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A ‘Concerning’ Amount Of Non-Native Lizards Larger Than A Cat Spotted Across SC, DNR Says

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Who had “Large Lizard Invasion in SC” on their 2020 bingo card for September?

Anyone? No?

Right now, wildfires are raging in the west, two tropical storms are spinning in the Atlantic, all the while a global pandemic still lingers.

(I wrote that sentence two weeks ago and it’s all still happening by the way.)

What else could possibly go wrong?

Three weeks ago, we warned y’all about this possible lizard invasion when the first black and white tegu lizard was spotted in Lexington, S.C.

The situation has not improved, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).

Since Aug. 21, there have been EIGHT other tegu lizard sightings in four different counties.

Eight large non-native lizards… between two and three feet, creeping around SC. Five of them were spotted in Lexington and Richland counties, two in Berkeley County, and one in Greenville County.

Yikes.

SCDNR officials were able to remove 5 of the 8 reptiles that were spotted in SC in the last three weeks.

An SCDNR expert called this “concerning,” in a recent post.

“The number and distribution of black and white tegu reports in just a few weeks is concerning. Documented sightings come from as far north as Greenville county and as far south as Berkeley county,” State Herpetologist Andrew Grosse said.

These “voracious” lizards, popular in the pet trade, can grow up to 4 feet long and weigh up to 10 pounds, according to SCDNR.

SCDNR has confirmed eight additional sightings of the non-native black and white tegus since the initial report from…

Posted by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on Thursday, September 10, 2020

Grosse basically said we gotta get these lizards out of here because invasive species cause all sorts of problems.

“Necropsies show the tegus have all been scavenging native plants and animals, including toads, various insects and muscadines. This indicates these individuals are wild, free roaming and foraging opportunistically. It is important that this species does not establish in our state,” Grosse said.

They also reproduce quickly

“The introduction of any non-native species can have serious negative impacts on native wildlife. Black and white tegus are no exception,” said SCDNR herpetologist Andrew Grosse, “Tegus mature and reproduce quickly, though most concerning may be their preference for eggs and the potential impacts to our native ground-nesting birds like turkey and quail, as well as other species such as the state-endangered gopher tortoise.” 

Tegus eat a “variety of prey” including “birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, fruits, vegetables, insects, and eggs,” the report said.

They are fast-moving and strong swimmers, according to Georgia DNR. They live up to about 20 years and “can multiply quickly.”

Tegus began invading Georgia in 2018, according to Georgia DNR. Officials believe this started with captive pets getting loose in the wild in Toombs and Tattnall counties.

The good news is that according to Georgia DNR, tegus are not a threat to dogs and cats.

Phew.

“Florida’s wildlife agency—which has been dealing with tegus much longer than Georgia DNR—is not aware of any predatory attacks on pets in that state,” Georgia DNR officials said. “However, DNR advises against leaving pet food outdoors: It can attract tegus and other wildlife to your yard.”

SCDNR is monitoring this situation closely (as are we).

What can you do to help stop the madness of a lizard invasion?

In SC, if you spot a tegu lizard dead or alive and if are brave enough, take a photo immediately and contact Andrew Grosse, [email protected]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].

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