Argentine black and white tegu

Argentine black and white tegu

Wildlife officials want Georgians to report sightings of giant, 4-foot-long lizards. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources say the South American lizards are now established in the state and can pose a real threat to Georgia Wildlife.

The Argentine creatures, known as tegus, are black and white. They can grow up to 4-feet long and weigh 10 pounds. The DNR says they can be mistaken for baby alligators or broadhead skinks.

The fast-moving lizards will eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds — including quail and turkeys — and other reptiles, such as American alligators and gopher tortoises. They will also eat chicken eggs, fruit, vegetables, plants, pet food, carrion and small live animals, from grasshoppers to young gopher tortoises. 

The DNR and its partners are working to eradicate a wild population in Toombs and Tattnall counties. People there should keep pet food inside, fill holes that might serve as shelter and clear yards of debris such as brush piles that can provide cover for tegus.

Tegus are legal as pets in Georgia but it is illegal to release non-native animals into the wild. Dozens of tegus were also spotted last year in south Georgia.

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Officials say people should contact the DNR if they come across these lizards, dead or alive. Tegus are a non-native species and are not protected by state wildlife laws or regulations. They can be legally trapped or killed. However, animal cruelty and local ordinances still apply.