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Four foot Tegu lizards invade Tampa

Most Tegus are black and white, but there are different colors.
Most Tegus are black and white, but there are different colors.Wikimedia

Tampa has become a host for new invaders...Tegu lizards from South America. According to Florida Fish & Wildlife officials, the lizards have established a breeding colony in eastern Hillsborough where there have been over 100 sightings of the lizards (map). Tegus have also established breeding colonies around Miami-Dade County and Panama City, can grow up to 4 feet and weight 30 pounds, and live up to 20 years. They pose a high threat to local wildlife and a low threat to humans.

Tegu sightings in Hillsborough County
Tegu sightings in Hillsborough CountyFLDEP

The problem with non-native species is that they tend to have very few enemies so they usually increase their populations quickly. Their increased numbers then generally devastate the local wildlife populations since they compete for food, and the local wildlife becomes their prey. Female Tegus lay ~ 35 eggs a year, and although Tegus are omnivores Gopher Tortoises and Scrub Jays are at high risk because they are ground dwellers.

There are several species of Tegu lizards most of which are black and white, but they can also be red, blue, or golden. Like other lizards they can swim, and they burrow underground at night. If you happen to see one, the official protocol is to take a photo of it and call 888-483-4681 to report your location.

FL F&W - Tegu Fact Sheet