SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (NEXSTAR/KRON) — Huge lizards are being spotted in the southeastern United States, and they are threatening native wildlife.
According to National Geographic, the Argentine black and white tegu lizards are reproducing in multiple southern states after escaping their pet owners.
The lizard has been breeding in South Florida for decades, but have only recently spread to Georgia.
In August, South Carolina officials documented the first confirmed sighting of the non-native lizard, a species that can have “serious negative impacts” on the state’s wildlife.
“Tegus mature and reproduce quickly, though most concerning may be their preference for eggs and the potential impacts to our native ground-nesting birds like turkey and quail, as well as other species such as the state-endangered gopher tortoise,” South Carolina Department of Natural Resources herpetologist Andrew Grosse said then.
There have also been reports of them in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, according to National Geographic.
These giant reptiles, which are native to South America, can grow up to 4 feet long, reaching the size of a dog, and are voracious omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals.
This has sparked fear among farmers. National Geographic said that in Venezuela, they have earned the name “el lobo pollero,” or “the chicken wolf,” because of their habit of stealing eggs from chicken coops.