Dog-sized lizards are spreading across various states in the southern part of the U.S. and could have potential impact to ecosystems, scientists warn. The Argentine black-and-white tegu are native to South America, but in the last decade, the dog-sized lizards have been breeding and spreading across the U.S. in states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.
The lizards, which can grow up to four feet, will eat anything, including eggs, birds, strawberries, vegetables and even sea turtles.
The lizards have been bred in Florida and were first sold as pets but some have escaped and bred on their own, causing them to multiply in unrestricted areas and numbers.
"The entire southeast portion of the United States is at risk," Amy Yackel Adams, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey told National Geographic. "Much of this area has a climate that is suitable for tegus."
The lizards survive in upland forests and grasslands, especially areas that get much rain, Adams said. She also said that with climate change, as tropical and subtropical zones start to shift north, the tegus will have a larger region to expand.
In some states, like Georgia, wildlife officials have been trapping the massive lizards and holding them until a solution is found.
"We’ve been trapping them for a couple of years now," Daniel Sollenberger, a herpetologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, told the National Geographic. "We brought in around a dozen last year and about a half a dozen this year. It could be that there are fewer of them now, at least in that location.”