SCDNR reports first sighting of black and white tegu lizard in SC

South Carolina News

DNR photo by Dustin Smith

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources reported on Friday the first documented sighting of a non-native black and white tegu lizard in the Midlands.

DNR first posted about the lizard on social media back in May, after it was found in Georgia and Friday, likely because of a release or escape. Officials say the lizard is a popular species in the pet trade.

According to SCDNR, staff members have been monitoring the situation closely and have received multiple reports since May from Lexington and Aiken counties. No previous reports could be confirmed.

One of the lizards that was removed from Lexington County was an adult female measuring about 2.5 feet long; however, DNR said black and white tegu lizards can reach up to 4 feet in length and weigh more than 10 pounds as adults.

Tegus are voracious omnivorous lizards that eat a variety of prey, including birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, fruits, vegetables, insects, and eggs.

“The introduction of any non-native species can have serious negative impacts on native wildlife. Black and white tegus are no exception,” said SCDNR herpetologist Andrew Grosse, “Tegus mature and reproduce quickly, though most concerning may be their preference for eggs and the potential impacts to our native ground-nesting birds like turkey and quail, as well as other species such as the state-endangered gopher tortoise.”

SCDNR asks people to 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 individual was seen. 

As a non-native species, tegus in the wild in South Carolina are not protected by state wildlife laws or regulations.

For more information about black and white tegus, including natural history and identifying characteristics:  https://georgiawildlife.com/tegus

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