Argentine black and white Tegus are a large nonnative species of lizard which can reach up to 4 feet in length. These lizards are commonly available in the pet trade, but some have been released to the wilds of Florida and are breeding. At this time the only known breeding populations are found in Miami-Dade, Polk and Hillsborough counties. They have sharp teeth, strong jaws and sharp claws, which they use to defend themselves if aggravated or threatened. The problem is these large lizards compete with and feast on our native wildlife!
In south Florida, tegus have been documented disturbing crocodile and alligator nests, actually eating alligator eggs. They also eat a variety of food items including fruits, vegetables, eggs, insects, cat or dog food, and small animals such as lizards and rodents. Since they reproduce quickly, monitoring populations and stopping the spread of this invasive species are vital to maintaining Florida’s native wildlife.
Tegus are not protected by any of Florida’s wildlife laws but animal cruelty laws and local ordinances apply. If you see a tegu, report it to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 1-888-IveGot1 (1-888-483-4681) or online at Ivegot1.org. If possible, please take a picture and note the location when reporting. Reporting your sighting will help wildlife managers better understand where the animals are found.