Argentine black-and-white tegus can grow to be 4 feet long, weigh up to 10 pounds and live for 20 years. Because they are not native to Georgia, it is illegal to release them into the wild.
According to DNR, adult tegus have few predators and can multiply quickly. Females can reproduce when they reach about 12 inches long and can lay about 35 eggs a year.
Although they don’t tend to be aggressive toward humans, they will defend themselves, DNR states. “Tegus can react fast, and have sharp teeth and claws and strong jaws,” its website states.
» Why snakebites are on the rise in Georgia this year
The biggest threats are to Georgia’s birds, small mammals and reptiles, and insects. Tegus are considered an invasive species, and also eat “fruit, vegetables, plants, pet food, carrion and the eggs of chickens, ground-nesting birds, and other reptiles, including American alligators and gopher tortoises, both protected species.”
The large lizards haven’t been spotted this far north yet, but DNR asks the public to let it know if you happen to see one. This helps biologists document occurrences. Note the location, take a photo and report the sighting:
If you or someone you know has a tegu lizard as a pet but can no longer care for it, the best thing to do is contact an animal shelter or agency that can rehome it.
» How to protect your pet from snakebites
» Photos: Georgia's venomous snakes and how to identify them