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Florida Authorities in the Lookout for Exotic Lizard After Massive Escape; 33 Captured

Apr 28, 2013 05:55 PM EDT
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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued a notice warning Bay County residents to be on the lookout for a 30-pound black and white lizard on the loose.

Authorities believe the Argentine lizard species "tegu" has found shelter in the Cedar Grove area, and they are welcoming public collaboration in the efforts to capture the reptile.

This week FWC captured about 33 Argentine tegus. The animals appeared in the region after an animal dealer abandoned them before leaving town.

"The owner, [a local resident], was licensed to sell tegus, and he left town abandoning them," Jerry Shores, FWC investigator, said.

The lizards captured were about 3 to 4 feet long and weighed up to 30 pounds.

"Most of the exotic [lizards] were captured within a fenced-in yard. However, some tegus have been reported by area residents a block or so away," Shores said.

Residents have been calling the FWC as they discover the lizards.

"During the investigation, the current residents have been nothing but helpful," Shores added.

He advised residents to not try to capture the lizards themselves. FWC said the lizards are not normally aggressive, but they have sharp teeth and claws and strong jaws to defend themselves.

A hotline has been opened to anyone who spots a tegu. The line is 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681) or, alternatively, FWC advises, one can report it online at IveGot1.org. The FWC also is asking residents for photos and to note the location if possible.

The tegu is indigenous to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, but can also easily establish itself in Florida's subtropical climate. A tegu's diet includes everything from fruits and vegetables to rodents and other small animals.

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