ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Florida is waging war on giant lizards from South America. Your cat will be happy to hear this.
This week Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill targeting tegu lizards and other invasive non-native species like Burmese pythons and lionfish.
The state will set up a program allowing people to capture or destroy the species on public lands and in state waters.
The climate in the Tampa Bay area is pretty ideal for tegu. The lizards were likely introduced by lazy pet owners dumping exotic pets in the woods.
Then they began breeding.
Tegu have a voracious appetite. They love to eat alligator eggs, tortoise eggs, cats or dogs.
A few days ago a huge tegu was spotting strolling the streets of Old Northeast St. Pete.
“Tegu diminish our alligator population, our gopher tortoise population,” says Amy DePalma, a ranger at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. “They’ll go after small dogs. I would definitely be worried about your house cats.”
DePalma and her colleagues have set traps for two, possibly even three, tegu on the St. Pete park’s property. They want to stop them before they mate.
“This habitat is perfect for them to reproduce in,” DePalma said. “No Tegu dating. They’re not allowed!”
Boyd Hill will host an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day event on May 19 to allow people owning exotic animals including tegus to humanely hand over pets they can no longer handle. For more information on this event, visit myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/nonnatives/amnesty-program/events/.