Dog-sized lizards are spreading across the southern part of the United States, and scientists warn that the surge of their population could have potential impact to the ecosystem.
The Argentine black-and-white tegu are native to South America, but their population has been increasing in the last decade, and is spreading across the U.S. states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.
The lizards were reportedly bred in Florida and were first sold as pets, but some have escaped and bred on their own, which led to their increase in numbers including in unrestricted areas.
“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 in an interview. “Much of this area has a climate that is suitable for tegus.”
Wildlife officials have been trapping some of the lizards in some states, like Georgia.
“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 half a dozen this year. It could be that there are fewer of them now, at least in that location.”