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FWC: Invasive lizards invading Tampa Bay | News

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FWC: Invasive lizards invading Tampa Bay

Lithia, Florida -- Today we'll learn more about big lizards creating a big problem in Hillsborough County. They're invaders from South America and they're spreading.

These huge reptiles are an endangered species' worst enemy: they love to eat birds, small animals, and -- most of all -- eggs.

The state's wildlife experts are going to talk Tuesday at Lithia Springs Park about their plan to stop them from becoming the next invasive species nightmare here in Florida.

See Also: Exotic Tegu lizards spotted in FL neighborhood

The Tegu lizards are originally from South America.

But the ones eating up endangered species here in Tampa Bay came from escaped or released pets.

People have spotted them more than 100 times around the Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve and Lithia Springs Park in an area near Riverview, Lithia, and FishHawk Ranch.

How would you like to run into one of these guys roaming through your yard, looking for a meal?

They can get up to four feet long. They eat almost anything. They can swim. And they're breeding in Hillsborough and Polk counties.

These lizards are coming out of hibernation right now and they'll be hungry.

So Florida Fish and Wildlife will be talking Tuesday about how to keep them from wiping out native Florida animals and spreading across the state.

If you see one of the black-and-white lizards, what should you do?

First, don't grab them or try to catch them by hand; they can hurt you. Instead, hire a professional trapper.

Then visit the invasive species reporting website for Florida, use the invasive species smartphone app, or call 888-IVE-GOT-1 to report the sighting. Reporting it helps the state track the spread of the animals.

Also, don't leave cat or dog food outside. Wildlife experts say anything that may attract a cat, dog, or raccoon to your yard -- can attract a four-foot-long lizard.

For more details on these exotic reptiles, check out the FWC Tegu lizards brochure.

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