TOOMBS COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is warning people to be on the lookout for Argentine black and white Tegus in Toombs and Tattnall counties.
The species is not native to our area, but DNR said they have possibly been released by pet owners or escaped from their owners. It is not illegal to own them in Georgia.
DNR says they have not caught or trapped any of these large lizards in Toombs or Tattnall County yet, but they know they are there because they have seen pictures on trail cameras and people have seen them.
“Things like this with the Tegus I think the pet owners - the novelty wears off or they also realize that they require a lot of food and a lot of space," said DNR Senior Wildlife Biologist, John Jensen.
Jensen thinks people don’t realize how big the animals can get.
“The fact is they are also really strong animals at four-and-a-half feet long. You have to have some pretty substantial security to a cage to keep them from being able to bust out.”
Crystal DeLoach is a teacher at a local middle school. She has owned exotic reptiles for 20 years. She said with exotic animals it’s important to know exactly what you are getting before you buy the animal.
“You need to do your research first before you buy one, which you should with any animal, but especially with reptiles because you need to know how you are going to feed them and how big they are going to get before you buy one,” DeLoach said.
DeLoach said if the animal gets too big for you to care for it, you have to do more research to find out who will take the animals.
“When they get too big, you don’t know what to do with them. You should never just release them because, you know, they just can’t become a part of your neighborhood like a dog can,” DeLoach said.
Jenson says the animals shouldn't pose a threat to humans or pets.
"They like eggs, they like bugs. They like plants and fruits, things they can easily obtain. They're not real fast. they are not going to run down prey. They don't have venom to overcome like that."
The DNR said if you’ve seen one of the large lizards to please give them a call. If you even see one as road kill on the side of the road, please call them because they would like to come get it and do research on it to see what they are eating and living off of in our area.