Thursday, 16 May 2019

Georgia DNR Asking You To Be On The Lookout for Argentine Tegu Lizard – via Herp Digest



May 2, 2019, TOOMBS COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - In March, we told you to be on the lookout for the Argentine black and white Tegu Lizard in Toombs and Tattnall counties. 

The species is not native to our area, but the Department of Natural Resources says they have possibly been released by pet owners, or they escaped from owners. Since last month, DNR says one of the lizards has been hit by a car, one has been trapped, and several have been killed.

Last week, a Tattnall County woman posted to social media that she found a Tegu in the road in Collins. It had been hit by a car, but was still alive when she found it.

“We’ve gotten quite a few records from Toombs; starting to get more from Tattnall. We really aren’t completely sure where all they range to right now, and that’s part of what we are trying to find out,” said John Jensen, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Georgia DNR.

Jensen says the animals are inactive from fall to early spring. Since it’s warming up outside, the lizards are starting to come out more.

“We are definitely trying to get a handle on it,” said Jim Gillis, Georgia DNR. “We are using Havahart traps, which are live traps. We are setting them with chicken eggs. We are trying to get into locations where we have recent sightings, where we have seen signs. We are not just randomly going out and trapping them.”

DNR is trying to get the lizards, dead or alive, to go genetic tests on them, and to see how many are living in our area.

“We will take genetic tissue samples so we can determine their relatedness. Did these all come from one female that had a bunch of eggs and started a population and therefore inbreeding and not very successful, or did it start with a bigger founder population?”

One big concern is if the Tegu is harming other animals and endangered species.

“There is one species, the state reptile, the gopher tortoise - also a burrowing animal. These use burrows and they also use gopher tortoise burrows, but they also eat the eggs of gopher tortoise and their young, and that species has plenty of threats. It certainly doesn’t need another one,” Jensen said.

While the lizards may cause a threat to some animals and their eggs, they don’t often hurt people.

“They are not going to come after you. They can bite. It can be a painful bite, but they are not going to bite you unless you pick them up or corner them, so they aren’t really a threat unless you threaten them.”

DNR is asking that if you see one of these lizards, please report it. You can so at https://bit.ly/2NZ0Z29

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