Move Over Pythons, Invasive Meat-Eating Lizards Are the Everglades' New Pest

While Burmese pythons have gotten all the attention, the Everglades now faces a threat from another foreign reptile menace: Argentine tegu lizards. When scientists first detected their presence in the swamp back in 2008, they thought they had a good chance to eradicate them, but it's too late now. Much like those pythons, the tegu lizards are a problem the Everglades will have to deal with for a long time.

A male tegu can reach about 4.5 feet, and they're noted for their relatively high level of intelligence for reptiles. In fact, they're popular pets in part because they actually can grow attached to their owners. They're basically cold-blooded dogs. Of course, somewhere along the line, some owners broke that bond and set them free into the wild. Ironically, according to the Miami Herald, some trappers do capture the creatures and resell them as pets.

The problem is they have a potentially ecosystem-altering appetite and a knack for surviving in all sorts of situations.

"They have the potential to impact all kinds of listed species," Jenny Eckles, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the Herald. "Tegus can go through the water. They're very adaptable to a number of different habitats, which is why we consider them to be problematic."

Unlike the Burmese pythons, the tegus can survive even in South Florida's coldest winters. They also pose a threat to some of the area's larger lizards due to their fondness for eating eggs -- so watch your nests, crocodiles and alligators. However, their diet also includes small mammals, birds, and plants.

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Kyle Munzenrieder