New wildlife regulations are in effect in South Carolina banning non-native Argentine black and white tegus from being brought into the state or reproduced.
The lizards are being seen more often in the wild here, including in Berkeley County.
The regulations require current tegu owners to register their reptiles with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The Argentine black and white tegu, a popular reptile in the pet trade, has been introduced and established in the wild in areas outside of its native South American range, including Georgia and Florida.
The invasive species has also been documented in numerous counties in South Carolina, which is joining Florida and Alabama in banning the reptiles.
At least 11 of the animals have been found in the wild in the state, some of which were deceased, including near Bonneau in Berkeley County.
“Tegus are predatory lizards, and they have been known to eat a variety of native species, such as quail and gopher tortoises, which are an endangered species in South Carolina,” said Will Dillman, DNR's assistant chief of wildlife. “These regulations are aimed at stopping the proliferation of tegus before they are able to establish and do real damage in our state.”
Pet owners who currently have tegus will be required to register them with DNR by Sept. 25. After this date, no unregistered tegus may be possessed, and no tegus may be bought, sold, traded or brought into South Carolina.
Tegus have gained popularity in the pet trade due to their large size, intelligence, docile nature and hardiness. Because South Carolina provides the species with suitable habitat and climate, black and white tegus and their hybrids have been added to the state’s list of Restricted Non-Native Wildlife.
To learn more about tegu regulations in South Carolina, and to see a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit https://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/herps/tegu.html.