Hillsborough becoming a breeding ground for the tegu lizard

Experts fear it will become an invasive species

TAMPA, Fla. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has confirmed more than 100 sightings of the Tegu lizard throughout Hillsborough County.

The lizard, which threatens to become an invasive species, can grow up to 4 feet long and 35 pounds.

"They're black, white, very shiny," wildlife trapper Vernon Yates said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials said Hillsborough County is now a breeding ground for the Tegu lizard, mostly in an area south of Riverview.

"I bet we've taken two dozen or so at least out of that area over the over the last few years," Yates said.

A native species of South America, most are released into the wild after being released by a pet owner.

 

"The largest threat is going to be to our native species and largely other reptiles," said Dr. Deby Cassill, a University of South Florida biology professor.

 

Cassill said tegu lizards eat everything from fruits and vegetables to other reptiles. It's their appetite for bird and reptile eggs wildlife officials worry about the most.

 

"In one area of South America where they have a lot of crocodiles, this particular species took out 80 percent of the egg clutches produced by crocodiles," Dr. Cassill said.

 

The lizard isn't much of a threat to humans or our pets. But they can inflict a pretty nasty bite if they feel threatened. 

 

"Their jaws have some of the greatest force of any lizard jaw," Cassill said. "They've been known to crush the bones of your fingers."

 

Experts say if you don't want the lizard coming around your house, keep all food, including pet food, away from porches and other areas. If you do come across one, call a professional to remove it.

 

FWC urges anyone who spots a Tegu lizard to report it to the state's exotic species hotline at 888-483-4681 or online at www.Ivegot1.org

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