Invasive 4-foot lizard threatening wildlife in Georgia, officials say

Invasive 4-foot lizard threatening wildlife in Georgia, officials say”

They can grow up to about 4 feet in length and can eat "just about anything they want", according to John Jensen, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Section at Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

"One of their favorite foods is eggs from ground-nesting animals such as gopher tortoise - our protected state reptile", Jensen said.

Now, Georgia is trying to rid itself of the Argentine black-and-white tegu lizard, an invasive species so far spotted in Toombs and Tattnall counties, CNN reports.

The department says the species are native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

"Tegus are not native to our state, and have been known to eat native species, including the eggs of alligators and threatened wildlife, such as hatchling gopher tortoises", according to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division website. Tegus also eat eggs from birds like turkey and quail, Jensen said, and could potentially take over the homes of burrowing animals, like gopher tortoises.

Native to South America, tegus are black to dark gray with speckled bands across their backs and tails.

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The Orianne Society says it is critical to remove invasive species early in the invasion process in order to stop them, and all tegu sightings should be immediately reported to Georgia DNR.

While the lizards are legal as pets in Georgia, it is illegal to release them into the wild.

"If you are able to safely and humanely dispatch of the animal, we encourage that and we want that information too", Jensen said in his video about the lizards.

Three years of captures in southern Georgia suggest that previous assumptions the creature could not adapt to Georgia winters were untrue, the Orianne post said.

"Tegus seen in Georgia can and should be shot on sight", the group wrote on Facebook Monday.

Because tegus are an invasive species, people can also kill them on private property if necessary.

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