It was announced recently by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources that a non-native lizard species is trying to make South Carolina its home.
In August the SCDNR confirmed the first sighting of the Argentine black and white tegu in South Carolina.
The number of sightings have since grown to eight. The sightings are in Lexington and Richland counties, two from Berkeley County, and one from Greenville County. Of the eight, five of the lizards have been successfully removed from the wild.
The state agency said in an email they do not have people out actively looking for the lizards, but are relying on people to send in information about sightings. SCDNR continues to investigate all reports and asks that any sightings of black and white tegus in the wild be reported to Andrew Grosse, firstname.lastname@example.org. The agency also asks, when possible, submit a photo, location, and time and date the reptile was seen.
As of Sept. 14, SCDNR said there have been close to 100 reports to the agency since the first sighting in August but not all sightings can be confirmed. The lizard has already established itself in Georgia and Florida likely due a release or an escape.
The first adult lizard removed from Lexington County was an adult female measuring about 2.5 feet long; however, black and white tegu lizards can reach up to 4-feet in length and weigh more than 10 pounds as adults. SCDNR reports the lizards 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 a non-native species, tegus in the wild in South Carolina are not protected by state wildlife laws or regulations and should be removed from the wild.