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Recycling Reptiles

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Posted: Saturday, November 11, 2017 12:30 am

   Just how the original population of Tegu lizards was introduced into the wilds of Florida is somewhat of a debate but my expert sources tell the story of an importer releasing thousands of Black and White Tegus from Argentina in South Dade prior to 2005. 

   Others discount that story as hearsay and blame pet owners who tired and released their unwanted creatures. Regardless of the original source of these now wild critters, all agree they are multiplying at an uncontrollable rate, posing a major threat to much of the natural wildlife in sections of Florida. 

   Unlike pythons who feed on large prey like alligators and raccoons, Tegus eat some small rodents but devour all types of eggs ranging from birds, turtles, alligators and more thus wiping out whole generations at a time instead of just one victim.  With an estimated 20 to 40 thousand of these reptiles roaming free, one can only imagine the havoc they render on our eco system.

   At 4-foot maximum, the Tegu does not pose a threat to human life but beware, its can deliver a bone crushing bite to a hand.  On the “other hand” Tegus can become a docile pet once a trusting relationship is established. According to trapper Rodney Irwin, tegus are extremely intelligent making them great pets.  They are special animals and like to be handled unlike snakes.”

  Knowing the threat these lizards pose on our natural wildlife seems to be understood by all however, what to do to control the problem is subject to debate.  The State of Florida has issued licenses to trap these reptiles.  Since they are an invasive species, they can be killed.  Again, enters Rodney Irwin, a trapper with a heart, who houses over 280 captured Tegu.    

   Every day, under impeccable conditions, Rodney waters and feeds his detainees a mixture of exotic fruits and ground meat, but why?  Well, take about 15 minutes and google his name for one of the best internet presentations I have ever seen.

   Rodney owns and operates Tegusonly, a company that sells what I call “recycled lizards.”  He has been catching these reptiles for 4 years and claims to have trapped about 1,800 of them. Operating within the law that allows people to obtain permits to keep these lizards his company has sold about 1,300. Why not? After all they do make good pets.

   Rodney goes on to say, “Nearly all sales are made out of Florida and if turned loose would not survive winter.” When asked what are some of the drawbacks to being a “Tegu Trapper” Rodney replied, “unlicensed poachers.  Recently had 25 of my traps stolen.”

  Rodney predicts that in the near future the tegu population could swell “to between 60 to 80 thousand.”  With such a small amount being trapped, I suggest everyone take a trip to Flamingo or another part of Everglades National Park.  Catch some pictures of native wildlife, perhaps egrets, sparrows, turtles, alligators or crocodiles.  Do it soon before pythons, tegus and other foreign reptiles devour the wildlife we know making our parks Jurassic.  

Photos: Shot at Tegusonly in Homestead


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