Tegu lizards causing trouble in Hillsborough County

We're used to lizards in Tampa Bay, but there's one breed that doesn't belong here and it's causing trouble.
 
The Argentine black and white tegu lizard can grow to about 4 feet long. They've been seen in Florida since about 2006.
 
"We are concerned with them of course because they are eating our native wildlife," said Tessie Offner, a biologist with Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
 
Offner specializes in non-native species in Florida and is a tegu expert, spending over 40 hours a week studying, tracking and capturing them.
 
Offner said there's really three populations of tegus in Florida. One is in the Miami-Dade area, another in Polk County. But the largest known population is right here in Hillsborough County. 
 
"We do know they were brought to Florida as pets," Offner said.
 
Part of Offner's job is to figure out how many of the lizards are in Florida and how much damage they're doing to the wildlife.
 
“They do take eggs from the nests of alligators and possibly crocodiles," said Offner, who adds that they eat a range of things, from fruits and vegetables, to eggs, insects, and even small mammals. 
 
When a tegu is trapped Offner will "humanely euthanize" it, she said.
 
Since 2012, there's been about 75 of the lizards trapped and killed by the state.
 
"The tegus will defend themselves," Offner points out, suggesting that people not try to interact with a tegu if they happen to run into one.
 
The FWC asks that if you see a tegu, or any non-native species, take a picture of it and then call the fish and wildlife hotline at 1-888-IVE-GOT-1, or log on to www.ivegot1.org.
 
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