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Once Pets, Some Non-Native Lizards Are Now Threatening Native Animal Species

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There’s a huge industry in the sale of native and non-native exotic animals. Certain lizards, especially, are very popular and unfortunately one has become invasive in Florida and Georgia and is now established in our state. The Argentine Black and White Tegu lizard is one of many tropical tegu lizards, but this species is able to survive in our winters, digging burrows or sadly displacing one of our native reptiles of concern, the gopher tortoise, by invading their burrows. About nine inches at birth, this animal can grow four to five feet in length, has no natural predators, and requires a large amount of food. Females lay thirty eggs at a time so they can quickly become established in areas if not controlled. It is no longer legal to sell them in South Carolina, and owners must register then with the state.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.