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The Argentine black and white tegu is a large, nonnative lizard that has been introduced to Florida. Tegus are black and white in color with banding along the tail. They can reach up to four feet in length.

In Florida, tegus can be seen on roadsides or other disturbed areas. They spend most of their time on land, though they can swim and may submerge themselves for long periods of time. Like many reptiles, they are primarily active during the day and will burrow or hide overnight.

Native range

South America, specifically Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.


Florida distribution

There are two known breeding populations in Florida, one in Hillsborough County and one in Miami-Dade County.  Sightings of tegus have also been reported elsewhere in Florida. 

History of introduction and management

It is believed that tegu populations in Florida were founded by escaped or released pets. The FWC is currently working with other agencies and organizations to assess the threat of this species and develop management strategies, including targeted trapping and removal. The goal of these partnerships is to minimize the impact of tegus on native wildlife and natural areas.


The tegu’s diet includes fruits, eggs, insects, and small animals such as lizards and rodents. If available, tegus have been known to be attracted to and eat cat or dog food. It is recommended that pet food not be left outside to avoid attracting tegus and other animals. 


Tegus could potentially compete with and prey upon Florida’s native wildlife, including some threatened species.

Tegus are hardy reptiles that can survive in burrows at temperatures as low as 35 degrees. Females can lay up to 35 eggs a year.