So far, 2020 has not exactly been a boom year for humans. The ample evidence supporting this statement will, I assume, be familiar to you, so I won’t belabor the point; I would simply like to remind you that the animals, in certain high-profile cases, are thriving. The goats? Running roughshod over Welsh towns as is their right! The cows? Sunning themselves on the empty beaches, hell yes! The hornets? Murdering whole colonies of bees, oh no. The lizards? Large, imposing, and expanding their horizons, it would appear.
Apparently, an invasive lizard called the Argentine tegu has muscled its way into the state of Georgia. These beefy boys have been spotted in both Toombs and Tattnall counties, likely having wandered up from Florida, where tegus are not supposed to be either, at least not in the wild. You will know the Argentine tegu by its black-and-white speckled scales and impressive size — up to four feet — and unbridled lust for eggs.
“They eat anything they want, plant and animal matter,” John Jensen of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Conservation section said in a PSA about these tegus. A “large and voracious predator,” the tegu likes to snack on snakes and frogs and assorted small mammals, but “one of their favorite foods,” Jensen emphasized, “are eggs.” Argentine tegus love eggs, simply love them; they love eggs from tortoises, eggs from turkeys, eggs from quail — tegus will zestily hoover up any eggs that fall into their paths, it seems. They will also launch home invasions on other burrowing animals, potentially displacing Georgia’s most beloved reptile, the gopher tortoise. So, you see, a real nightmare for their new neighbors.
Officials believe Argentine tegus came to Georgia as pets, establishing themselves after either escaping or being released into the wild. Jensen encouraged anyone who sees one of these fearsome beasts, elsewhere described as being “like a tiny Tyrannosaurus Rex,” to “safely and humanely dispatch the animal” if possible. They would also like those people to report their sightings online.
As for Georgia’s Argentine tegu owners, they should, I suppose, be very careful while walking miniature gators at this time — the first rule of large-lizard husbandry is, always keep your “strong lad” on a leash, duh.