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Georgia officials asking public to help track 4-foot long, invasive lizards

(CNN) — There’s more to add to that list of invasive species you just found out about and already don’t like.

Georgia officials are working to completely eradicate a lizard they say poses a major threat to some of the state’s native wildlife: the Argentine black and white tegus.

John Jensen, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Conservation Section, said the lizard can grow up to about 4 feet in size and can eat “just about anything they want.”

“Tegus will eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds — including quail and turkeys — and other reptiles, such as American alligators and gopher tortoises, both protected species,” according to the department’s website.

They can also eat fruit, vegetables, pet food and small animals — including grasshoppers and gopher tortoises.

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Biologists believe the lizards are in Toombs and Tattnall counties.

The lizards are native to South America, the department says on its website, weigh about 10 pounds or more and live up to 20 years. They are black to gray with white, speckled bands across their bodies.

And they multiply fast. They don’t have a lot of predators and females can lay about 35 eggs in a year, the department said.

Jensen said that while the lizards often create their own burrows, they can also use other animals’ and displace them.

Jensen said the department is asking the public to report any sightings of the reptile in order to aid their efforts to track and eradicate the lizards.

“If you are able to safely and humanely dispatch of the animal, we encourage that and we want that information too,” Jensen said.

The lizards are legal in Georgia as pets, but Jensen urged pet owners who may not want their lizards anymore to reach out to reptile adoption organizations.

“Releasing it into the wild is the absolute worst thing to do,” he said.

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