Riverview, Florida -- Biologist Tessie Offner and a crew of photographers wandered through thick brush in Hillsborough County on Wednesday morning looking for a creature that doesn't belong.
"Nope, not a tegu," she said after finding a raccoon in one of her traps.
Offner wasn't looking for the raccoon. She, along with the rest of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, has been on the look out for tegu lizards.
"We are concerned with them, of course, because they are eating our native wildlife," said Offner, who has been studying these creatures since 2012. "We'd like to know exactly what type of impact they are having on the wildlife populations in the areas where the tegus are found."
Tegu lizards are not native to Florida but are making new homes in Polk and Hillsborough counties. They are originally found in South American countries and can become incredibly invasive quickly.
The FWC has tried to trap the lizards, which can grow up to four feet in length and eat anything from plants and pet food to rodents and other lizards. They can lay dozens of eggs at a time that hatch in the early summer.
If you see a tegu, the FWC asks residents to:
1. Take a picture.
2. Note the location.
3. Report the sighting.
Sightings can be called in to the FWC's exotic species hotline at 1-888-Ive-Got1 (1-888-483-4681) or online at IveGot1.org.
Previous Stories on the Tegu Lizard:
- Tegu taking over parts of Hillsborough
- Exotic Tegu lizards spotted in Florida neighborhood
- Tegu breeding in Tampa Bay