2020, everyone!

A species of giant lizard has started to spread in the United States, and they're becoming a problem.

The Argentine black and white tegu lizard is a species native to South America and can grow as big as a dog, reaching about four feet long. They are omnivorous (eat both plants and meat), meaning they will chow down on anything that is close to the ground. Due to the reptile’s predatory nature and unique ability to withstand colder temperatures, the lizards pose a significant threat to native wildlife species.

The huge lizards have lived in South Florida for a long time—several decades at least. They are sometimes kept as pets and have been known to escape or be let free by owners who can no longer control them. In some countries, like Venezuela, the lizard is nicknamed the "chicken wolf” or “el lobo pollereo," because it often is seen stealing eggs from chicken coops, according to a report by National Geographic

Sightings of the large lizards have spread in recent years. So far, they have been seen in:

  • Florida
  • Georgia 
  • Alabama
  • Louisiana
  • South Carolina
  • Texas

In Georgia, biologists have started to trap the lizards and have had some success with lessening the population there. They have also started a public awareness campaign to educate residents about the invasive species. When a sighting is reported, the animals are trapped and relocated if possible; several people are interested in these big guys as pets.

In Florida, where the tegus population is more established, the animals are being studied, radio-tagged, and observed as scientists and biologists work to find a way to safely remove the animals. So far this year, the United States Geological Survey has captured over 900 of the huge lizards near the Everglades National Park. Work continues to try and understand how the lizard breeds and moves about in the wild so that a plan to remove them and keep the population under control can be implemented. 

What do you think about this latest twist from 2020? Giant invasive lizards seem about par for the course! Sound off in the comments.