Reptile Rescue Coordinator Tom Bunsell handles an Argentine black and white tegu at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Jared Leone, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Considered one of the most invasive reptiles staking claim in Florida, the Argentine tegu threatens birds, alligators and pets and could be more destructive than Burmese pythons, whose robust population has lead wildlife officials to sanction state sponsored snake hunts to reduce their numbers.
While Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are concerned about the growing population of the invasive lizard, there are no eradication efforts in place like those for the problematic python, according to WFTS.
The black and white lizard has sharp teeth, strong jaws and pointed claws. They grow up to four feet long, can be purchased at pet stores and when they become too unwieldy, pet owners typically dump them.
Although not aggressive the lizard will defend itself if threatened.
The reptile, which can lay up to 35 eggs in a year, is native to South America and has found two nesting areas in Florida, the Tampa area in Hillsborough County as well as Florida City near the Everglades in Miami-Dade. The hatchlings are born in early summer.
“Government comes up with all the reasons why it can’t act faster, but the tegus don’t care,” Mazzoti said. “They can’t say we understand there are budget problems so we won’t reproduce this year. No, that’s not how it works.”