LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A neighborhood in Polk County is being terrorized by a three-foot lizard that experts say can be aggressive and dangerous.
The lizard that’s on the loose is a tegu lizard. They are meat-eating lizards from Argentina and are not native to Florida.
The lizard was most recently seen in a neighborhood near Tiger Town in Lakeland.
Dustin Hooper from “All Creatures Wildlife Control” tells WFLA he’s set up traps to catch it. According to him, tegus can be aggressive.
“It needs to be caught – number one, it’s an invasive species. We all know how that works,” he said. “The lizard keeps roaming around, it could bite somebody. The bacteria in its mouth could cause an infection, cause you to get sick.”
Hooper says this is his second call about a tegu lizard in the last two years. He believes it was someone’s pet that escaped or was set free.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers tegu lizards an invasive species “due to their impacts to native wildlife.”
“Like all nonnative reptile species, tegus are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty law and can be humanely killed on private property with landowner permission,” the FWC website says. “This species can be captured and humanely killed year-round and without a permit or hunting license on 25 public lands in south Florida.”
New rules put in place last month for invasive nonnative reptiles require people keeping tegus or green iguanas as pets to apply for a prohibited species for personal use permit. They also have to be marked with a PIT tag and kept in appropriate caging in order to prevent escapes.