Tegu, an invasive exotic lizard species, spotted in Florida neighborhood

11:29 AM, Jun 10, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Florida (First Coast News) -- An invasive lizard species was spotted outside a Jacksonville-area neighborhood on Sunday. 

Our sister station WTLV First Coast News confirmed with two wildlife experts that the almost three-foot lizard is, in fact, a Tegu.

"I thought it was a baby alligator when it came towards me head on," said Mike Read.

An alligator, an iguana, or maybe a baby dinosaur: those were all of the possibilities thrown around before Read learned he has a Tegu hiding underneath his house.

"He's probably only about 30 inches long, but a lot of that length is in his tail," said Read.

Read snapped a couple of pictures during the few seconds the exotic reptile peeked out of the bushes and walked under the home. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission do not recommend people attempting to capture lizards they may come across. 

The FWC says Tegus have sharp teeth, strong jaws and sharp claws, but they're not really a danger unless they feel aggravated or threatened. Read says it might help take care of the rodents.

"Get rid of the rats I hear out there," added Read.

The lizards are native to South America but have been spotted in parts of Florida. They can eat small animals like other lizards or rodents. 

Later Read tried to lure the creature out with food, but turns out it's really good at playing hide and seek. Some of his lizard friends came out to play, but the Tegu was nowhere to be seen.

"Definitely interesting. It's got that red tongue that will stick out like I guess most of the lizards," said Read.

Wildlife officials believe the lizard has become so popular in the Sunshine State because of pet breeders, but they are working to stop the spread. They say Tegus are a threat to native wildlife and threatened species.

The first three things you're supposed to do if you spot one of these not so small creatures is to take a picture, note the location and report the sighting, all of which Read did. You should call the Florida exotic species hotline at 1-888-IVE-GOT1.

In April, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff members captured 33 Argentine Tegus in Panama City. 

FWC said most of the lizards captured were adults and measured three to four feet in length and weighed up to 30 pounds. FWC believes a licensed breeder left town and left the Tegus behind. 

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