What would you do if you saw a huge lizard running around your neighborhood?
I know what I did... I freaked out!
Here's the story... and for those that do not know, I now live in Riverview, Florida, a suburb of Tampa.
On Monday, my chiropractor (she makes house calls, how cool is that?) came to adjust my back and when she got here she told me she had just seen a huge lizard walking across the street near the entrance to my neighborhood. She wasn't exactly sure what it was and she assumed it was an iguana - possibly a pet that had escaped. I didn't think too much of it...
Fast-forward to Friday afternoon... I was sitting in the screen room with Chewie (our new yorkie) while the kids were playing football in the backyard. All of a sudden, Chewie started barking like crazy and jumped up on the sofa, he was so out of control he slipped and almost fell off the back of it... Out of the corner of my eye I see what I assumed was a squirrel...
Then I realized it was a MASSIVE LIZARD!!
The kids started screaming... and then my next door neighbor comes running from in between our houses, he was chasing the thing too... We were all freaking out, wondering what the heck it was... A baby alligator? An iguana? Someone's pet that got loose?
It ran into my neighbor's front yard and the kids lost sight of it.
I then did what every person who sees something strange in the neighborhood does these days... I hopped on the neighborhood Facebook page and asked if anyone else had seen the big lizard running around.
Oh yes, several other people had seen it too! I'm actually surprised that I was the first one to post about it considering how many people had already encountered it. At that point, I still wasn't sure what it was because I really didn't get a very good look at it's coloring.. But after looking up "big lizards in Florida" I came to the conclusion that it was probably an Argentine black and white tegu - they're non-native, invasive, and multiplying like rabbits throughout the state. I found several news stories about them, including this one that was just published a few days ago.
One of my neighbors had managed to get a really good picture of it last week...
Yesterday after my son's football practice we came home and it was in our backyard - again! I didn't see it, but my husband and my son did... and my husband ended up chasing it around the neighborhood for a bit... But it got away.
The FWC has been asking the public to report sightings and they are trying to remove as many as possible because they pose a threat to native species... Plus, who wants to run into a 3-foot lizard on the regular?
I emailed them and sent pictures along with my address on Friday afternoon. So far I have not heard back... But I am hoping someone comes and takes this thing away! Last night when I got home from girls' night out I was afraid to walk from my car to my house because who knows if it's lurking in the bushes or on the side of my house?
Have you had any encounters with tegu lizards? Is this just something we're going to have to start living with?