Florida is experiencing a problem with giant exotic reptiles known as tegu lizards taking over by finding the state to be a fertile breeding ground. Wildlife officials are trying to keep the reptiles from becoming the state’s next intrusive species. There are over 100 tegu lizards that have been seen in the Hillsborough County area, the Florida Conservation Commission has declared and the region is now considered home to one of three different breeding populations in the entire state.
Wildlife officials have found them in various areas of Florida even though they are actually native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay. The tegu lizards do not belong in the environment of southwestern Florida, and wildlife officials are worried about the animals that live there possibly losing their territory because of the hostile lizards taking over.
The tegu has come to be there because people go to the pet store and buy them when they are cute small lizards, explained Florida wildlife conservationist Tessie Offner. When they end up growing too large for a home aquarium and are also too costly to feed, the owners just go and set them free in the preserves. Offner has spent nearly four years catching the tegu, which can end up growing to the length of four feet or more. They do not have any known predators and will eat anything ranging from plants to animals that have bones or shells. They will also eat birds and amphibians. They have a liquid in their stomachs that is like acid. It is able to liquefy any shells and bones and within just a few days it appears like they never consumed anything that was solid.
Marvel Stewart, who works as a volunteer horse rescue worker, explained that he had seen around five a week on his property. There was an entire population of gopher turtles on the 1,100 expanse of acres Stewart owns but now they have all disappeared. Stewart resides in the town of Lithia along with other homeowners. They all have reported seeing the lizards on their respective properties.
Stewart added that one of the lizards was able to slip into a horse shed. However, thankfully the horse was not in there at the same time. If she had been, there could have been a lot of trouble because the mare might have bucked, and could have possibly injured herself in the process while attempting to get away from the lizard.
Another problem that Florida wildlife conservationists have found with the tegu lizards are that they can reproduce very quickly as well. They usually lay around 20-55 eggs at any one time. The wildlife commission has put out nearly 30 traps around the preserve and also dozens more on personal property in order to try and catch them. They try to lure in the tegu lizards with raw chicken eggs and they then trap them and humanely euthanize the reptiles.
Florida is having major problem with giant exotic reptiles known as tegu lizards wanting to take over by finding the state to be a fertile breeding ground. Wildlife officials are trying to keep the small reptiles from becoming the state’s next intrusive species and are working hard at this.
By Kimberly Ruble