Unwanted Guest Under Porch Linked To Larger Tegu Invasion Threatening Georgia Ecosystem

In a quiet Athens neighborhood, a group of curious children made an astonishing discovery one day while playing in their backyard. Looking under a porch, they stumbled upon a 3-foot-long lizard, a species not native to Georgia.

As Men’s Journal reports, this formidable reptile turned out to be an Argentine black and white tegu, a non-native invader with a voracious appetite.

Tegu lizards are large reptiles native to South America.

Photo: Argentine Black and White Tegu (Salvator merianae) (27407553454), Wikimedia Commons / Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, License: CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED
Tegu lizards are large reptiles native to South America.

Tegu Invasion

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Tegus, popular in the exotic pet trade, hail from South America and can grow up to 4 feet long. These creatures have found their way into the wild in Florida and even southeast Georgia, causing growing concerns.

Tegus have a particular fondness for devouring eggs and, in the process, infecting native wildlife with exotic parasites, The Telegraph reports. Their appetite extends to fruits, vegetables, plants, pet food, carrion, and even small live animals. This invasive behavior poses a significant threat to local ecosystems.

Tegus are known for their distinctive black and white coloration.

Photo: Tegu lizard (Tupinambis teguixim) (21036431805), Wikimedia Commons / Under the same moon…, License: CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED
Tegus are known for their distinctive black and white coloration.

Legal Ramifications

While owning a tegu is legal in Georgia, there are specific regulations in place to mitigate the risks. As WRDW reports, Tegus must be registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, microchipped, and prohibited from breeding.

The Danger of Tegus

As Phys.org reports, Tegus have a ravenous appetite, consuming the eggs of quails, turkeys, and other ground-nesting birds. They also pose a threat to American alligators and gopher tortoises, which are protected species.

As an invasive species, tegus can potentially transmit diseases, parasites, and bacterial contamination to crops, reports the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This poses a significant concern for both wildlife and public health.

Tegus can grow up to 4 feet in length.

Photo: Argentine Red Tegu 8 weeks, Wikimedia Commons / Scott Hogge, License: CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED
Tegus can grow up to 4 feet in length.

While tegus are not typically aggressive, they can become agitated when cornered or during mating season. According to The Guardian, they have a sharp bite, and their long tails can inflict injury.

Stay vigilant, and if you ever spot a tegu on your property, remember: it’s better to snap a photo and report it to the authorities than to approach this intriguing but potentially harmful creature. Together, we can help protect native wildlife and preserve delicate ecosystems.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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