Rare, nonnative lizard species spotted in South Carolina

South Carolina News

SOUTH CAROLINA (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A rare lizard has been spotted in South Carolina and it’s causing wildlife officials to sound the alarm.

FOX 46 had a chance to speak with a coordinator for a local reptile and amphibian rescue about the nonnative ‘black and white tegu,’ and why there could be more roaming around.

“I’ve gotten a lot of concern from the public,” Andrew Grosse said.

Grosse works with the DNR Reptile and Amphibian Center.

“We are still trying to make 100 percent sure before we put out there that there are more running around,” Grosse said.

South Carolina documented its first sighting of the nonnative species in Lexington. It was a rare sight for the Carolinas.

“We had a few unconfirmed reports in Columbia and Aiken. This one in Lexington was the first we were able to get a specimen that was what we thought — it was a black and white tegu,” Grosse said.

The adult female found in Lexington measured about two and a half feet long. Black and white tegu lizards can reach up to four feet and weigh more than ten pounds as adults, but don’t worry too much if you happen to come across one.

“They are not likely to be aggressive, but like any other wildlife species, if they’re threatened they would definitely defend themselves,” Grosse says.

The lizards are omnivorous and eat frogs, lizards, and other small bird mammals. The Department of Natural Resources is worried about ground-nesting birds, like turkeys and quail.

“Anytime you introduce another species into an ecosystem it will upset the balance you have, especially a top-level predator like a large lizard.”

The lizard species is popular in the pet trade, which may explain how one ended up here. Grosse says it’s likely as a result of a release or escape. Wildlife officials say to do your research before buying one as a pet.

“If you get tired of it there are rehab facilities that will take them. Please don’t just let them go.”

Please report any sightings of black and white tegus in the wild to Andrew Grosse, grossea@dnr.sc.gov. If possible, please submit a photo, location, and time and date the lizard was seen.

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