ATLANTA (Gray News) – There’s yet another creature to haunt dreams in the middle of a pandemic.
Georgia officials are working to eradicate an invasive lizard species from South American called the black and white tegus.
They can grow up to about 4 feet in length and can eat "just about anything they want,” according to John Jensen, a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Section at Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The lizards pose a major threat to some of the state's native wildlife.
“One of their favorite foods is eggs from ground-nesting animals such as gopher tortoise — our protected state reptile,” Jensen said. “Birds, including turkeys and quail.”
They also eat fruit, vegetables, insects, pet food and small animals.
“These large lizards are voracious predators that have been found consuming a variety of native wildlife in the longer-established Florida populations,” according to the Orianne Society, a conservation group.
The population started with escaped or released pets.
They multiply fast, don't have a lot of predators and often use the burrows of other animals to make their homes.
Full-grown tegus weigh 10 pounds or more and live up to 20 years.
Georgia officials say any sightings of the reptile should be reported to the Georgia Invasive Species Task Force.
State biologists believe the lizards are established in Toombs and Tattnall counties.
The lizards are not protected by state wildlife laws, so they can be trapped or killed.