Tupinambis merianae Photo Courtesy FWC ©
On April 30th 2010 an exotic black-and-white tegu lizard was captured at the entrance to Everglades National Park. A week later, another tegu was sighted 200 miles north, in the Ocala National Forest, just north of State Road 40. Others have been captured in the Florida Panhandle around Panama City, and tegus are now believed to have established breeding populations in Miami-Dade, Polk and Hillsborough counties.
Native to South America, tegus are large, powerful predatory lizards that are often kept as pets. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials believe pet owners may have released the lizards when they grew too big to handle. Tegus are active during the day and like to bask in the sun. They feed on small animals, insects and eggs, but will also eat fruit and plants. Tegu lizards grow to four feet in length and weigh about 8 pounds.
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