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Group: South American lizard sighted in Georgia for 3rd year

Posted at 2:47 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 14:55:25-04

REIDSVILLE, Ga. (AP) - An invasive South American lizard Georgia officials are attempting to eradicate was sighted for the third year in a row, a reptile conservation group said.

The lizard - known as tegus - was recently found in Tattnall County, the Orianne Society said Monday in a Facebook post. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said the Argentine lizards, which have established themselves in both Tattnall and Toombs counties, likely originated in the state as escaped pets or were released into the wild.

“Many of the public that encounter these often report them, thinking that they look like a baby alligator well away from the water,” said John Jensen, an official with the Georgia Natural Resources Department, in a YouTube Video posted on May 8. “They eat just about anything they want, plant and animal matter,” Jensen added.

The tegus, which can grow up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) long, poses a threat to protected native wildlife, including American alligators and gopher tortoises. The black and white tegus have been documented using gopher tortoise burrows and eating tortoise and alligator eggs, as well as the tortoise young.

While they have not been a threat to humans and common household pets, including cats and dogs, Georgia officials are advising people against leaving pet foods outside as it can attract the lizard to people’s homes.

The tegus, which have also been found in parts of Florida, can live up to 20 years and lay up to 35 eggs every year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Orianne Society said it is critical to remove them early before they have a chance to spread rapidly.

Jensen said people should report sightings of the lizard to the state’s natural resources department and kill them if they can able to do so “safely and humanely.”