After Taking Over Florida, Huge Invasive Lizards Are Headed to Texas
Texas is home to many invasive species of animals and plants that arrived in waves over the last hundred years. Some are the descendants of escaped or dumped pets, or took over after poorly thought out agricultural or hunting experiments. These species wreck havoc on existing ecosystems and threaten native plants and animals. Many can be harmful to humans as well, either indirectly by destroying cropland, or in the case of Africanized bees, quite possibly directly injurious or even deadly.
Feral hogs were introduced to Texas as hunting game in the 1930s. Feral hog populations are extremely destructive to wildlife, crops and also pose a deadly hazard on highways. They are tenacious and culling their numbers has proven to be an obstacle for Texas. Other invasive species include: nutria rats, zebra mussels, and Asian carp. Red ants are one particularly heinous example.
Texas is now being slowly but surely invaded by large tegu lizards. This species of tegu can get up to four feet long. Despite being huge, they're not aggressive, and I personally find them to be extremely cute. They are the descendants of escaped or dumped pets, and despite appearing like free-range Pokémon, they're harmful to native animals and crops:
In addition to being a pest to farmers — they're known to steal eggs from chicken coops — they could threaten crocodiles, alligators, sea turtles, snakes and other creatures that live or nest on the ground.
These tegu are exploding in population in Florida and have been for years, in spite of efforts to cull them from the wild completely. Instead, they have thrived and are gradually migrating to other warm southern states, including Texas.
So far, tegu sightings have been mostly isolated here, but invasive species can take over an environment extremely quickly. Cane toads started to slowly invade Australia until they hit a tipping point and massively increased in numbers, taking over whole coasts in spurts of merely a decade.
Time will tell if tegus take over as completely as feral hogs did, or if efforts to cull them prove successful in controlling their populations in Texas. If left unchecked, it could get as bad as Florida:
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