Giant Argentine lizards spotted across southern U.S. What to do if you see one in MS

Is Mississippi about to be invaded by giant Argentine lizards?

Well, that wasn’t on the 2024 bingo card.

Don’t worry, it’s not happening, but we should keep our eyes peeled.

Although they made a home in Florida for a while, the Argentine Black and White Tegus lizard has been seen in several other Southern U.S. states like Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina.

In fact, in South Carolina, more than 100 sightings of the non-native lizard.

The lizard is native to Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, so how did it get here? And what should Mississippi residents do if they see one?

Here’s what to know:

How did the giant exotic lizard get here?

Short answer: the pet trade.

The Tegus lizard could be kept as a pet in several states until just a few years ago. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the lizard as a wild animal, non-native to any state.

Although the Department of Natural Resources isn’t 100% sure, the wildlife division in multiple states reported that the lizards either escaped or were kept as pets and then released into the wild later on, which is illegal to do.


Releasing wild animals kept as pets can be detrimental to the natural environment.

“In the wild, alien species compete with native species for resources and can modify their new ecosystems with terrible consequences for biodiversity,” according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Are the lizards dangerous?

The giant lizards can eat just about anything, including alligator eggs, fruit, insects and even rodents.

The lizards don’t pose a threat to humans or pets, but they are a bit scary, topping out at about four feet long and 10 pounds.

However, there are some sanitary concerns associated with the lizards. Like many other reptiles, the Tegus lizard can carry Salmonella.

What should Mississippi residents do if they see one?

If you see a Tegus lizard on your Mississippi property:

  • Landowners don’t need permission to trap non-native or nuisance animals on their property in Mississippi.

  • If you’d rather snag a photo and send it to Mississippi officials, contact Mississippi Wildlife at (601) 432-2199.

Have you ever seen one of these wild lizards? Let me know at