Tegu Lizards (Salvator merianae) are Invading Georgia

You know who I hate (besides Trumpanzees)?  I hate the hypocritical sadistic do-gooders who hunt Burmese pythons in south Florida.  For generations the ecosystem there has been out of whack because large predators have been reduced or exterminated.  Finally, a new large predator has been introduced (though accidentally), but these stupid jerks are wiping them out too.  Burmese pythons can help control the overpopulation of raccoons and wild hogs in South Florida that destroy eggs of endangered species of turtles.  The snake-killers refuse to acknowledge this benefit, and instead they are doing their best to eliminate another large predator that simply is substituting for the wolves and cougars that humans also try to wipe out.  I hope these assholes fail.  I root for the snake.  In fact I hope 1 day a Burmese python squeezes the life out of a snake-killing hypocrite who is trying to exterminate them. I would celebrate the irony.  I’d love to write the headline “Burmese Python Euthanizes Human.”

The Argentine black and white tegu is another newly colonizing species (which alarmists call invasive) that has wildlife biologists hyperventilating.  This species is native to South America and a popular pet among reptile-lovers.  However, they grow to 3 feet long and reach weights of 15 pounds.  Pet-owners get tired of taking care of such a large lizard, and they release them into the wild.  Tegus established a breeding population in south central Florida where they’ve been munching down on alligator and turtle eggs for 20 years.  Over the past 3 years there have been over 50 sightings of tegus in Georgia, mostly in Toombs and Tatnall Counties.  To determine whether a breeding population exists in south Georgia, scientists conducted a study.  They set out 75 live traps in 3 different locations in those 2 counties for a couple of months.  The scientists caught 2 breeding age females in all that time, indicating to me that they are still uncommon but present.  The authors of the paper wrote they “euthanized” the lizards by shooting them with a .22 rifle.  I hate the word, euthanize, because it makes killing a creature sound sanitized.

Argentine Black And White Giant Tegu, Tupinambis Merianae Or.. Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 94513894.

Black and white tegu lizards, native to Argentina and other South American countries, have established a population in Florida and are invading Georgia.  Do-gooder assholes want to wipe them out, but I think for the most part they are harmless.

Native range map for black and white Argentine tegus.

Verified and unverified sightings of tegu lizards in Georgia + trapping sites of the below referenced study.  .

Map of verified and unverified sightings of tegus in Georgia and Florida.  Surprisingly, some of them have been from quite far north in Georgia.  Tegus are partially warm-blooded and can dig burrows, helping them survive in cooler climates.  Map also from the below referenced study.

Most of Georgia is ideal habitat for tegu lizards.  They are partially warm-blooded and can did burrows to escape cold and hot weather.  Females lay about 30 eggs, and the young become full grown and sexually mature in 2 years.  They are also omnivorous, eating insects, other arthropods, small animals, eggs, and fruit.  The stomach contents of 7 tegu lizards trapped in Georgia included blackberry, strawberry, insects, other arthropods, crayfish, wood frogs, and a toad.  This list hardly sounds like an animal that is destabilizing the environment.  Wildlife biologists are concerned the lizards might eat eggs of the endangered gopher tortoise, and they have been found in gopher tortoise burrows, but native raccoons are much more abundant and have hardier appetites.  If gopher tortoises can co-occur with raccoon predation, they can endure the impact of a few lizards.  Unlike Burmese pythons, tegu lizards are much more vulnerable to native predators.  I’m sure bobcats, coyotes, hawks, owls, and snakes can control their numbers.

Reference:

Haro, D.; et. al.

“Evidence for an Established Population of Tegu Lizards (Salvatore merianae) in Southeastern Georgia”

Southeastern Naturalist (19) 4 2020

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One Response to “Tegu Lizards (Salvator merianae) are Invading Georgia”

  1. dorrie Says:

    This is very interesting and a viewpoint I’ve never read. If I see one in Coweta county I might not have a complete breakdown. Thank you.

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