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These Four-Foot Lizards Will Eat Anything—and They’re Invading the Southeastern U.S.

Tegus first appeared in the wild of southern Florida a decade ago, but now they’re in Georgia and South Carolina, too

Black-and-white tegus are more resistant to cold than most reptiles because they can raise their body temperature about 50 degrees Fahrenheit above that of the environment (Photo by Donar Reiskoffer via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY 3.0)

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“We’re at that early invasion,” she says to Discover. “It’s the best time to deal with it.”

The first black-and-white tegus probably wound up in Florida’s wilderness because people bought them as pets, and then either released them or let them escape. Tegus are popular exotic pets, but some states like Alabama have barred new tegu imports to try to prevent invasive populations from cropping up there. In addition to the Georgia tegus, the lizards have been spotted in four South Carolina counties, and isolated tegus have been seen in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and across Florida, reports National Geographic.

In Georgia, wild tegus captured by the state are given to people who want them as pets.

“We do everything we can to get the animal, capture it, and try to rehome it,” says Georgia Reptile Society president Justyne Lobello National Geographic. “We want to help take them out of the habitat as humanely as possible. It helps that we have a long waiting list of people who want one as a pet.”

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