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The large, invasive tegu lizard is taking over parts of Hillsborough

6:16 PM, Feb 25, 2014   |    comments
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Video: Large, invasive lizards take over parts of Hillsborough

This is a young (small) black and white tegu that was kept as a pet. FWC Photo by Alicia Wellman

 

Tampa bay, Florida-- Large, invasive lizards are taking over parts of Hillsborough County. 

They are called Tegus and they are from South America but have made southwest Florida their new home. 

STORY: Exotic tegu lizards breeding in Tampa Bay area
PICS: See pics of the lizards here

Florida Fish and Wildlife have spotted more than 100 of them between Riverview and Gibsonton. They do not belong in the habitat in southwest Florida, and FWC is deeply concerned about the animals that do belong here losing their habitat because of the invasive lizards.

RELATED: FWC says invasive lizards are invading Tampa Bay

"People buy these cute little lizards at the pet store and then they grow to be too big for an aquarium and they are too expensive to feed and then they just set them free in the preserves," said FWC biologist, Tessie Offner. 

Offner has spent the last three years catching tegus. 

"They produce rapidly, laying between 25-50 eggs at a time," said Offner.  "They eat everything from plants to other animals with bones and shells- also amphibians, and birds."

She said their stomachs are so acidic they can dissolve animal bones and shells, like the gopher tortoise's, within days and it comes out like they never ate anything solid. 

"We had a whole gopher turtle preserve on our 1,100 acres and now they are all gone," said volunteer horse rescue worker, Marvel Stewart. "We see four to five a week on our property."

Stewart lives in Lithia along with other homeowners who have been reported sightings of the four-foot long lizards. 

"One got into our horse shed, and thankfully the horse was not in there at the time, but if it had been it would have been bad because the horse would have bucked, and possibly hurt herself trying to run from the lizard," said Stewart. 

The animals are native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.

The FWC has set out 28 traps in the parkland and dozens more on private property to help catch them. 

They lure the lizards in with a raw chicken egg and then trap them and humanely euthanize them. 

They have no known predators according to the FWC. 

If you see one, take a picture and report it to the FWC at www.IveGot1.org or call the hotline: 1-888-483-4681.  

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