Giant Tegu Lizards Invade Georgia

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

The invasive reptile, which is native to Argentina, has a vicious bite

As if "murder hornets" aren't scary enough, now Georgia residents have another invasive species to worry about. The tegu lizard, a species native to Argentina, has invaded Georgia and is said to pack a potentially dangerous bite.

Mark Mandica, founder and executive director of the Amphibian Foundation in Atlanta, said, “They have very sharp teeth and really powerful jaws so they can bite down with a lot of force."

The reptiles, which can measure up to 4 feet long, have established themselves in counties along the border with Florida. CBS46 reports the lizards have also been captured in Kirkwood and other Atlanta neighborhoods.

“We got a call; a tegu was in a chicken coop right here in Atlanta. We went and it was eating the eggs in the chicken coop,” Mandica said. He ended up capturing the lizard and keeping it as a pet. 

The Amphibian Foundation said three lizards have been caught in the city so far. Although releasing the lizards into the wild is illegal, the group believes the lizards were pets that had been released. Among reptile enthusiasts, the pets are popular, and known as one of the few lizards that can actually be house-broken. The lizards are omnivores that can thrive in Atlanta gardens and can even survive Georgia's winter weather. It also has the ability to breed and multiply rapidly, which is concerning as the lizard can do great harm to native Georgia wildlife.

If you do spot one, the Georgia Department of Wildlife asks you report it immediately. If you decide to try to catch it, be careful.

“I would not approach one without the gear to do so safely,” Mandica said.

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