Leaping lizards! Let our experts tell you about the latest invasive species to be found in Georgia

Leaping lizards! Let our experts tell you about the latest invasive species to be found in Georgia

May 18, 20202 min read

What’s four feet long, weighs ten pounds and is eating its way across two Georgia counties? If you guessed the Argentine black and white tegu – you’d be right.

"It has become established as an exotic invasive species in several sites in South Florida and we now believe in the Toombs and Tattnall counties of Georgia," said Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist John Jenson.

"We're trying to remove them from the wild, because they can have a negative impact on our native species."

The Argentine black and white tegu can grow to be up to 4 feet long and weigh 10 pounds or more. The species can be identified by its mottled black-and-white coloring, which is arranged in a banded pattern across its back and tail. Hatchlings also display a bright green color on their heads. This tends to disappear around the time they reach a month old.

While the species is known to lash out if threatened, it is not considered aggressive toward people. The biggest problem it presents is towards existing wildlife. The species is notorious for stealing burrows. Tegus also possess an indiscriminate and edacious appetite that can include the eggs and young of other species.

"They eat just about anything they want, plant and animal matter, and one of their favorite foods are eggs from ground-nesting animals such as gopher tortoises—our protected state reptile—birds, including turkeys and quails," said Jenson.   May 14 - Newsweek


Invasive species are not new to Georgia or the southern states, but there are a lot of questions still to be asked:


  • What endangered species are threatened by the presence of these lizards?
  • What can be done to remove them?
  • How quickly will they breed and spread?
  • And are there any natural predators that can assist DNR authorities naturally?


If you are a journalist covering this subject – then let our experts help. 


Steve Hein is the director of the Center for Wildlife Education at Georgia Southern University. He’s an expert in Georgia wildlife and is available to speak with media about invasive species in the state – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • Steve Hein
    Steve Hein Director

    Steve Hein utilizes his artistic talent, business skills and a tremendous sense of fun to his work at the Center for Wildlife Education.

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