Invasive Lizard Threatens Florida, Considered More Problematic Than Burmese Pythons

By  //  April 21, 2017

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Argentine tegu

ABOVE VIDEO: The black and white lizard has sharp teeth, strong jaws and pointed claws.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA (WFTV) – 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.

“A big lizard can be a very exciting animal for a young kid to run across, they want to catch it,” Lewis Single, who works in the herpetology department at a Tampa zoo, told WFTS. “If they want to grab a large tegu, they could get sent to the hospital.”

Biologists captured 13 of the reptiles in 2009. By 2015, 760 were trapped and released to track their movements, according to the Miami Herald. Trappers believe the population now number in the thousands.