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: