FWC: 132 Reported Sightings of Tegu Lizards West of the Florida Turnpike in Fort Pierce
Fort Pierce - Monday April 25, 2022: A cluster of Argentine black and white Tegu lizards has made their home in a rural area of Fort Pierce recently. Conservation officials are advising the public to be on the lookout and report any sightings.
There have been 132 reported sighting of Tegus in a 3 square mile area west of the Florida Turnpike in Fort Pierce. Florida Fish and Wildlife biologist Dan Quinn reports that 118 of them have been trapped and euthanized.
“So far it appears that the population out there is relatively contained west of the Turnpike south, of Orange Ave. and north of Okeechobee Road," said Quinn, adding that they haven't spread far beyond that area, "yet.".
Tegus can grow to 4-feet in length and weigh up to 10 pounds, although most are 2 to 3 feet long. They have a black and white mottled color, often banded down their body. They have sharp claws, sharp teeth and a strong tail.
"They’re generally not consider a threat to people and there’s been no recorded predatory attacks on people that we’ve received," said Quinn. "However, if you were to corner one it certainly would try to defend itself and could potentially hurt you.”
They are however a hazard to Florida fauna and flora. “They’re absolutely considered a threat to our native wildlife populations. They’ll eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter. What makes them of particular concern is that they are likely capable of spearing much further north. They could spread as far north as the Carolinas and there’s already a population in Georgia.”
Tegus have been found in southern Florida for more than a decade, the population of found in Fort Pierce is recent. They’re native to South American and their spread here is blamed on the exotic wildlife trade. They are now a prohibited species and can no longer be procured as pets.
If you see a Tegu, FWC asks that you call their Exotic Species Hotline at 1-888-IveGot1 (1-888-483-4681) or online at: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/report/.