LAKELAND, Fla. - A wildlife trapper is on the trail of a giant lizard!
A 2 ½- foot tegu lizard is on the loose in Lakeland.
The species is known to be aggressive and can bite people if provoked. Dustin Hooper of All Creatures Wildlife Control told FOX 13 if one of the lizards bites you, the bacteria in their mouths could cause a nasty infection.
"It’s unlikely that the lizard is just going to run and pounce and attack somebody," Hooper told FOX 13. "The chance of somebody getting bit is when they want to get curious -- ‘I want to see what this is,’ and they get too close. The lizard is not going to have it. The lizard is going to bite. If that happens, you’re probably going to get an infection and get sick."
Animal trappers are telling people who live in the area to keep an eye on their pets, because the lizards may attack dogs and cats, according to FOX 13.
"It is a carnivore. It eats meat. It will bite somebody, and the bacteria that this lizard has is similar to a Komodo Dragon. It can make you sick."
Karen Hazlett told FOX 13 that her dachshund Delilah may have already had a run-in with the foreign invader.
"I noticed that her face was all swollen. She is itching it and her eyes got all puffy, and she just didn’t act right," Hazlett said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) however says that tegus are not known to initiate interactions with humans or pets, and there have not been any reports of predatory attacks from tegus on pets in the state of Florida.
"However, tegus will defend themselves and can bite if threatened. For general safety around any wildlife, members of the public are recommended to keep a close eye on pets and to not let them roam outside alone."
According to FWC, tegus are not considered to be venomous, nor is there evidence that bacteria in their saliva is particularly dangerous.
Tegus are not Florida natives. They are considered an invasive species that have the potential to upset our state’s fragile ecosystem.
The invasive species has also been known to attack alligator nests and eat the eggs.
Traps are set on Swannoa Street where the tegu was last seen. The trapper also scouted the area looking in sheds and under foundations. Nothing so far. But he is determined.
"I am going to catch this lizard one way or another," the trapper promised.
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