UPSTATE, S.C. (WSPA) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) announced a ban on an invasive lizard species that’s now established in South Carolina.

The new regulations ban Argentine Black and White Tegu lizards from being bought, sold, transferred and possessed in the state of South Carolina. 

Tegu lizards are native to South America and are popular in the exotic pet trade. The creatures start out small but can grow to be 3 feet long.

The lizards aren’t harmful to humans, but have the potential to disturb native and endangered wildlife in the state.

Photo courtesy of Dustin Smith

“In Florida they’ve been seen digging up alligator eggs out of nests and even found a few tortoise hatchlings in the bellies of some— those are endangered species here in South Carolina. We know they can impact our native wildlife, especially those that are rare or declining,” Andrew Grosse, herpetologist at the SCDNR said.

Wildlife experts say tegus can survive in South Carolina due to the state’s suitable habitat and climate. 

The first tegu sighting was reported to SCDNR by a resident in Lexington in August of 2020. Since then several residents have spotted tegus in Columbia and areas north of Greenville. Greenville. 

The new regulations require all current white or black Tegu owners to register and microchip the lizards with the SCDNR by September 25.

Residents who are caught with non-registered tegus could face $2500 dollars in fines or one year in jail. 

If you spot a Tegu Lizard, the SCNDR urges residents to take a picture and report it on the department’s website.