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Report: Invasive tegu lizards are migrating through Florida

Tegus are reported to live in 35 counties across the state, including the entirety of the Tampa Bay area.
Credit: AP
A black and white Tegu lizard sticks out its tongue at the Yebo Gogga exhibition at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has announced the first documented case of the large, non-native black and white tegu lizard in the state. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

FLORIDA, USA — Florida has often been seen as a runaway train when it comes to invasive reptiles and amphibians, with little being done to control their spread. 

One reptile, in particular, has slowly been making its presence known all throughout the state. 

A new report, co-authored by the University of Florida, details the decade-long growth and spread of the Argentine black and white tegu lizards throughout the state. 

The lizards, which typically feed on the eggs of South Florida's native wildlife, have always been known to inhabit southern Miami-Dade County. But, research is showing they're on the move. 

Tegus are reported to live in 35 counties across the state, including the entirety of the Tampa Bay area. In fact, according to the report, there is now an established population of tegu lizards in Hillsborough County. 

However, that migration doesn't end in Florida. Researchers say tegus have likely already been established in several counties in Georgia. According to the report, the lizards have proven to survive winter in "semi-natural" enclosures in Alabama which leads to the prediction for a potential tegu expansion across north Florida. 

Without any intervention, researchers say irreversible damage could be done to the biological diversity and ecological integrity of the Everglades. 

UF says it partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the United States Geological Survey, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the South Florida Water Management District to develop a plan to reduce the tegu population. 

That plan includes:

  • Locating and removing tegus using camera traps and live traps.
  • Preventing any expansion to new areas through live traps, camera traps, and community outreach.
  • Developing and validating a new method of evaluating the impact of tegu removal on tegu populations.
  • Using radio telemetry to understand how tegus move through the landscape and apply results to enhance removal of tegus.

You can see how many of the tegu lizards are currently in the Tampa Bay area here:

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