Florida Wildlife Officials Battling Invasive Giant Lizards

Jul 30, 2014

Tegus have sharp claws and teeth, but FWC officials say they don't pose a direct threat to people. They eat vegetables, insects and small rodents.
Credit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida wildlife officials are working to eradicate invasive lizards that can grow up to 4 feet long and have been seen eating alligator eggs. Tegus have been spotted recently in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Polk counties.

Florida Panhandle residents might recall a Panama City incident last year that ended in the capture of 33 tegus from one couple’s yard. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson says that’s believed to be an isolated event involving a pet release. But now FWC is trapping the invasive giant lizards found in the wild in at least three Central and South Florida counties.

“Unfortunately because there are so many tegus and we cannot find proper homes for all of them, and they are humanely euthanized," she says. 

Like many non-native species, tegus are believed to have been introduced to Florida through the pet trade. Originally from South America, they were first spotted invading the state eight years ago. Segelson says if people see tegus, they should never try trapping them. Instead she says take a photo and report the sighting to FWC by calling 1-888-IVEGOT1 or through the state's IveGot1 smartphone app.