Things aren't too peachy down in Georgia, where Tegu lizards native to Argentina are leading a saurian invasion on a positively Shermanic scale.
Anyone order a lizard Tegu? If so, don't let it gu er, “go” in Georgia! So sayeth the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Section, and with good reason. The non-native Tegu lizards can grow up to 4 feet in length and eat “just about anything they want,” according to John Jensen, a biologist with the DNR's WCS.
Tegu lizards are popular – and quite legal – pets but trouble starts when lazy and irresponsible pet-owners release them into the wild when they've outgrown their welcome.
The Argentine black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) are of particular concern. The “outgrowing” of their welcome we mentioned? Kinda par for the course when your species is commonly referred to as the Argentine Giant Tegu or the Huge Tegu. Oh, the huge tegu!
As long as we're tossing out Hindenburg references, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Section doesn't really mind if you kill an escaped Huge Tegu with fire, nuke it from orbit (just to be sure), or apply any other convenient internet memes toward its imminent demise.
“If you are able to safely and humanely dispatch of the animal, we encourage that and we want that information too,” confirms the aforementioned John Jensen in a slightly more PC manner. Just FYI, it's believed that several populations of lizards have gained a scaly foothold in Toombs and Tattnall counties, located adjacent to one another in east central GA. Don't stop now, you're in lizard county!
So, what's so bad about a few rogue reptiles? Plenty: the 10 pound, four-foot-long lizards have lifespans of up to 20 years and females can lay roughly 35 eggs each year. Their preferred foods are the eggs of ground-nesting birds and endangered reptiles such as alligators and gopher tortoises. As for predators... they don't have many so get on out there and act the part, Georgians! (images via Bernard DUPONT, and Florida Fish and Wildlife)