COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has confirmed eight additional sightings of the non-native black and white tegu lizard since the initial report from Lexington County in August, officials announced Thursday.
According to a press release from SCDNR, five of the sightings were from Lexington and Richland counties, two from Berkeley County, and one from Greenville County. Of these, five tegus have been successfully removed from the wild.
Due to the establishment of black and white tegus in Georgia and Florida, and the potential impacts they could have on native ground-nesting birds like turkey and quail, as well as other species like the state-endangered gopher tortoise, SCDNR staff have been monitoring tegu reports and information closely, the release stated.
“The number and distribution of black and white tegu reports in just a few weeks is concerning. Documented sightings come from as far north as Greenville county and as far south as Berkeley county,” said State Herpetologist Andrew Grosse. “The individuals removed measured between 2 and 3 feet long and consisted of both females and males. Necropsies show the tegus have all been scavenging native plants and animals, including toads, various insects and muscadines. This indicates these individuals are wild, free roaming and foraging opportunistically. It is important that this species does not establish in our state.”
On Aug. 21, SCDNR provided information regarding the first confirmed sighting of a wild Argentine black and white tegu in South Carolina, and asked members of the public to report any sightings of wild tegus to the department. After this request for information, more than 80 reports of black and white tegus in the state have been received, staff said.
For more information about black and white tegus, including natural history and identifying characteristics, click here.