It’s not every day that a nearly 3-foot lizard walks past your house, but that’s what happened to Ed Turschmann on Sunday morning.

The creature was spotted wandering outside the Turschmann’s pool screen in the Pine Ridge neighborhood of West Promontory Drive and West Daffodil Drive.

Turschmann’s wife Linda grabbed her cellphone and took a video of it, which she later posted on Facebook.

“And then it left our yard and headed to the vacant lot next to us,” Turschmann said Monday.

Some of Turschmann's neighbors thought it was a Nile or a rock monitor.

However, after Sarah Funck, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation's Nonnative Fish and Wildlife Program coordinator, viewed Turschmann’s video, she identified the lizard as an Argentine black-and-white tegu.

Here are the answers to the questions we asked FWC: 

What is the species' country/countries of origin?

The tegu is a large South American lizard that is not native to Florida. The Argentine black and white tegu is native to Brazil, Paraguay, eastern Uruguay and northern Argentina.

How does something like that get to Florida?

They are part of the pet trade in Florida and are imported or bred.

Do they make good pets?

Released pets remain a primary source of introduced species in Florida. Through the FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program (EPAP), pet owners who are either unable to care for their exotic pets, such as tegus, or who no longer wish to keep them can surrender them with no questions asked and without penalties regardless of whether those pets are kept legally or illegally. 

The EPAP helps reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild by pet owners and fosters responsible pet ownership.

What do tegus eat?

Tegus have an omnivorous diet and consume fruits, eggs, insects, small animals including reptiles and rodents, and may consume pet food that has been left outdoors.

Will it eat my dog/cat?

While tegus are omnivores and eat a variety of plant and animal matter, we are not aware of any predatory attacks on pets in the state of Florida. However, we recommend you always keep a close eye on pets and never let them roam outside alone. When walking your pets, always have them on a leash. Never leave pet food outdoors as this food can attract tegus and other wildlife to your yard.

Potential impacts of tegus include competition with and preying upon Florida’s native wildlife, including some imperiled and protected species. Tegus prey upon the nests of other animals, and researchers have documented tegus eating American alligator eggs and disturbing American crocodile nests in Florida. Recent gut content analysis of tegus by the FWC revealed that they consume threatened juvenile gopher tortoises and agriculturally valuable foods, thus highlighting the impact this species may have on sensitive wildlife and agricultural lands. 

Is it dangerous? (Teeth? claws? venom?)

Tegus are not venomous but can have sharp claws and teeth. Tegus, like all animals, may act defensively if they feel threatened.

What do I do if I see it in my neighborhood?

The FWC encourages reporting sightings of the Argentine black and white tegu. You can help by taking a photo or video, noting the location and reporting this information using the free IveGot1 mobile app, by calling 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681) or by reporting online at IveGot1.org.

Information about tegus:

 

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

(13) comments

gigo

iguanas not tegus

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article232237467.html

Miuke Nelson

Update: https://www.chronicleonline.com/news/state/florida-agency-clarifies-message-to-kill-invasive-iguanas/article_b56579a5-6350-5040-999e-397c569dcb07.html

JoeannLindaman

I heard many times on the news if you see them you can kill them, legally.

CitrusCo Citizen

I've never heard that on the news--not even once, much less "many times". Name one primary or secondary source for that fact. You can't. You have a right to your opinion but not to your own made-up facts.

JoeannLindaman

ABC

SHAREDN

Technically it is not legal for everyone to kill non-native species like the tegu. The state passed a law last year that directs Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to develop a pilot program for eliminating a number of non-native species. The bill allows FWC to hire /contract with companies that specialize in wildlife removal to trap or kill the species. The state also wants a record of all species trapped or killed so they can collect data and make future decisions about managing these species.

Mike Arnold

Editor

CitrusCo Citizen

Thank you, Mr. Arnold. That makes perfect sense and is a state law that protects FL's native wildlife, is humane and provides safety from random gunfire and runaway wildlife, for residents in a neighborhood.

Miuke Nelson

https://www.chronicleonline.com/news/state/florida-agency-clarifies-message-to-kill-invasive-iguanas/article_b56579a5-6350-5040-999e-397c569dcb07.html

RobertRoscow

That’s our legislature for you. Banned constrictors like the Burmese python that now are destroying the ecology of the Everglades but then a lobbyist got an exception for anacondas. They are the world’s largest snake getting up to 20+ feet in length. So of course they’ll eventually get released into the Everglades as well when owners tire of them.



The best thing to do with these tegus is kill them. You can then call the FWC and tell them where the body is and they can get their data. But by far we should try to completely exterminate all non-native fauna and flora. The FWC is paying big bucks to eliminate the pythons. They are open to any and all ideas. The population of small mammals like raccoons, possums, etc. is being drastically reduced and limiting prey for larger animals like bobcats. One python female can lay up to 100 eggs so this gives you some idea of the magnitude of the problem. They are also eating the endangered key deer. Probably even young panthers could fall prey but mature panthers are expert killers and have extremely powerful jaws like jaguars that kill by biting the skull. If only we could train alligators to eat pythons and now tegus.

Phunkasaurus Wrex

Why video,why not just kill it?

CitrusCo Citizen

Why do you need to kill animals for pleasure or excitement? Why not shoot them with your camera and then call the authorities so that they can be removed safely and placed in a zoo for everyone to view? That would make you a bigger, better homo sapien than just pulling a trigger for fun.

MAEL

They need to make illegal too bring non-native species into this country. It's ridiculous the amount of native wildlife we are losing here in FL to these non-native species, especially with all these knotheads that can't keep them contained.

RobertRoscow

Well put!!! We sure owe the person a huge debt of gratitude to the idiot who thought water hyacinths looked pretty and stuck some in their pond. Now the state is completely covered with them and we spend millions of dollars a year trying to kill them off. The dead plants then decay on the bottom of lakes that were once great breeding grounds for bass and other fish.

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