STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – Some lizards are causing trouble for wildlife and could impact the economy in two local counties. Now state and federal agencies are partnering with Georgia Southern University to get rid of the reptiles.
The black and white Tegu lizard is not native to Georgia, but it’s been spotted in Toombs and Tattnall counties. The reptile is usually found in Central and South America.
Experts believe it ended up here because an owner in one of those counties released the animals into the wild.
Professor, Dr. Lance McBrayer with Georgia Southern said the lizard is a threat to the environment because it eats almost anything.
” They are a generalist predator. They eat plants as well as animals,” McBrayer said.
Now the university is partnering with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S Geological Survey to trap and get rid of them.
On the university level, the team consists of Dr.McBrayer and three students.
Eight lizards have been caught so far.
Program manager Dr. Bob Sargent with the DNR mentioned how the reptiles’ intense appetite could threaten crops and small animals in Tattnall and Toombs counties.
“From an economic standpoint, they could also cause considerable problems too. For instance, the poultry industry because they will certainly eat chicken eggs and perhaps prey on chickens, they’ll eat crops and vegetables,” Sargent added.
There is also a worry that the reptile which is known to find and eat eggs, will go after the gopher tortoise eggs, an endangered species.
McBrayer said there’s no telling how many of the lizards are in the area because a female lizard can lay upwards of 30 eggs at a time. He also added the lizard is smart, adaptive, can hide underground for long periods and can travel far distances.
Recently there was a call about a sighting in Bryan County, and experts believe it could travel to other neighboring counties.
But, the professor said residents shouldn’t fear the lizard because it isn’t dangerous to humans, unless provoked.
” Many are not terribly afraid of humans and so if someone were to see one they wouldn’t be attacked. If you were to corner one and catch one, the animal has powerful jaws and it could bite and scratch you,” McBrayer added.
If you come across one of the lizards you are asked to take a picture of it and report it.
How to report: