MIAMI (CBSMiami) – They’re nowhere near the size of a Burmese python, but standing about six inches and less than four feet long,the Argentine tegu lizards may actually be a bigger problem for south Florida.
Experts say the tegu lizards, which are not native to south Florida, will knock off the environment’s balance from Homestead to Key Largo with their voracious appetite if they go unchecked.
CBS4′s news partner the Miami Herald reports that scientists say, it’s too late to eradicate them.
Ron Magill with Zoo Miami said the lizards eat all sorts of things, it especially likes eggs and would have access to crocodile and sea turtle eggs.
“Let’s use an analogy of a plane with rivots,” said Magill. “A plane can fly if a rivot breaks off, but eventually a rivot will break off and the wings will break off and the plane will crash.”
The small black and white lizards most often make their way to South Florida as part of the exotic pet trade.
“Once they are released or escape they learn to thrive in our environment. The ones they’ve caught, they’ve examined their stomach content and found eggs that they are reproducing. That’s the red flag. We saw this back with pythons.”
Federal, state and local agencies are working together to trap as many of them as possible and have caught close to 150 of them.
Officials don’t have an exact count of how many tegu lizards are in South Florida, but they know the lizards are multiplying. One female tegu can lay dozens of eggs each year.
If you come across one, although their bite isn’t venomous, you should report the sighting and stay away.
“It is a serious bite. A lizard this size can easily break fingers in a child’s hand and it’s not just the bite, but the claws can do a serious amount of damage trying to get away from you.”
If you have one of these as a pet at home, and you want to get rid of it, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
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