• 73°

Leapin’ lizards!

Pam Stone

Just sayin’


Let me make this clear: I’m a ‘live and let live’ sorta gal—to the point where I will scoop a drowning Japanese beetle out of the water trough or step in and break up an assault by a hornet upon a horse fly. And I despise horse flies. I don’t hesitate to kill them with a deft swat of my hand when they settle on my horses’ rumps, ready to puncture with their teeth and draw blood, but seeing one on its back a few days ago, spinning in helpless circles while an enormous wasp was stabbing it repeatedly and moving in for the kill was too much for me to take. I felt compelled to knock the assailant off with the toe of my boot and he buzzed me threateningly as he took his leave.
And should I find a wasp being attacked by, say, a murder hornet, or something, I’ll step in there as well. All very well meaning but naively interfering with the balance of nature, which can be very cruel, and isn’t a Disney movie, no matter how much I wish it were.
All species are welcome here on the farm: deer, squirrel, wabbits, skunks and the occasional black bear.
The Tegu lizard? Er, not so much.
Oh, you haven’t heard? Child put down your coffee and grab a chair. With the same ignorant intention of “gosh, this would be handy to help prevent erosion” that brought kudzu to this country by someone who spied it in Japan, leading it to be planted by The Civilian Conservation Corps and southern farmers, the Tegu lizard has begun to invade South Carolina from Georgia and Florida. Originally from South America this nightmare began by someone illegally releasing them into the wild. Spotted in Lexington SC as well as Aiken—are you ready for this—the black and white Tegu can grow to four feet in length and weigh up to 10 lbs.
It poses no risk to humans…no one has to worry about it scurrying up, unseen and attacking the backs of their ankles like a tetchy Chihuahua, but it can and will wreak havoc on our wildlife—particularly our native nesting birds: quail, turkey and our state endangered gopher tortoise. This sucker eats everything: fruit, vegetables, and once it passes that part of the buffet, it goes for small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and eggs.
I’ve been told they make great pets if you have a crate the size of a Ford Excursion and are relatively docile to handle. That’s all well and good but like the Burmese pythons in Florida, Tegus reproduce rapidly, and we can expect to see a plethora of them in the future. Being non-native, there are no laws to protect them and there is the dilemma for yours truly. Because while we’re urged to take photos if seen and send to DNR, I can’t bear the thought of these rather amenable critters suffering at the hands of those who would wish to do them harm.
As I’m surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and fields with plenty of water sources I just know it’s only a matter of time before one of these giant lizards comes strolling into the barn to greet me some early summer morning. All four feet of it, perhaps getting ready for hibernation which can last a full six months.
Enthusiasts claim they become very acclimated to their owners and can even be house broken, which is useful if they reside with you for their entire lifespan of twenty years. That’s it–I can see where this is going…
Move over, Poppy and Posey, give Ralph some room on the sofa…