Argentine Black and White Tegu, Invasive Species Found in Georgia

Argentine Black and White Tegu

There is a new threat to the local wildlife species in Georgia. The Argentine black and white tegu Salvator merianae have been found in two counties in Georgia. These reptiles are native to South America. Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has partnered up with other researchers to eradicate the Argentine black and white tegus.

DNR biologist John Jenson, stated, “It has become established as an exotic invasive species in several sites in South Florida and we now believe in the Toombs and Tattnall counties of Georgia.” Authorities are trying to remove the Argentine black and white tegu, due to the negative impact they have on indigenous species in the area.

Argentine Black and White Tegu Description

Argentine black and white tegus are one of the most intelligent and extremely adaptive of all living lizards. They spend an abundant amount of time in deep burrows. These burrows protect the lizard from dehydration and excessive temperatures.

Female Argentine black and white tegus are roughly three feet long. The males are larger, ranging up to four feet long. Tegus can weigh 10 plus pounds. They can be identified by their mottled black and white coloring, which is in a band-like pattern spanning across their back to their tails. When hatched, they have a bright green color on their heads. This usually disappears by the time tegus are about a month old.

Argentine Black and White Tegu Nutrients and Daily Habits

The Argentine black and white tegu lizard is an omnivore. This means it eats both plants and animals. Young tegus will mostly eat snails, insects, spiders, berries, fruits, and seeds. As the Argentine black and white tegus grow bigger it will focus more on small birds, eggs, and small mammals for their food source.

These lizards are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They spend their days looking for food and basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature. In the wintertime, they go into a state of hibernation, called brumation. This will occur when temperatures drop below a certain point.

Argentine Black and White Tegus Mating Habits

Mating season for tegus happens in the spring and the brumation ends. When tegus emerge from brumation, they will spend the next few weeks mating. Roughly a week after mating, the female tegu will begin building their nests. These nests are quite huge, ranging from three feet across and two to three feet tall.

Female tegus are extremely protective of their nests, attacking anything they view as a threat. They can lay anywhere from 10 to 70 eggs at one time. Though the average is roughly 30 eggs at one time. Incubation periods range from 40 to 60 days, depending on the temperature.

What to do if One Sees an Argentine Black and White Tegus

Most of the people who have encountered the tegus, in Georgia and Florida, have called in to report they have seen “a baby alligator well away from the water,” according to Jenson. Jenson goes on to say that the tegus are not biased in what they eat. Eggs from “ground-nesting” animals are one of the tegus’ favorites. Tortoises and birds are just a couple of examples of “ground-nesting” animals. This is why conservationists are concerned about the Argentine black and white tegus destroying the wildlife population in North America.

Argentine black and white tegus are not normally aggressive towards humans. Tegus tend to be cat-like pets to own. They can be docile and loyal to their humans. They can live up to 20 years.

If anyone sees any tegus in their areas, please contact local wildlife officials to report it. Officials are trying to track and eradicate the lizards before they do too much damage.

By Sheena Robertson
Edited by Jeanette Vietti

Sources:

CNN: Georgia officials are asking the public to help them track 4-foot long, invasive lizards
Newsweek: INVASIVE SPECIES OF GIANT LIZARD HAS SETTLED IN GEORGIA, WILDLIFE AUTHORITIES SAY
Fox: Giant 4-foot-long lizard now established in Georgia as invasive species
LLLReptile: Argentine Black & White Tegu
Animals: Tegu Lizard

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Bernard DUPONT’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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