MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - The hunt is on for a destructive, invasive reptile in Florida.
The state approved funding to begin a pilot program to hunt Tegus, a type of non-native reptile that is wreaking havoc on the environment. The state approved spending $600,000 over two years for the hunt, aiming to control or eradicate the population in Florida.
The legislation reads the program will begin in July 2018. It will allow people to capture or destroy the lizards that are located on public land.
Fred Grunwald, of Suburban West Palm Beach, owns two Tegus, and has a soft spot in his heart for them.
“I never had any Tegus. Now, I love them,” he said.
But, he knows not everyone takes as kindly to them as he does.
“I can’t think of much a Tegu won’t eat.” Their ferocious appetite is what makes them a problem. “They eat eggs, alligator eggs. They eat snakes, birds, lizards, cats, dogs,” Grunwald said.
They also eat a lot of vegetation, giving environmentalists concern about the Everglades. Tegus are heavily populated near Homestead.
“South Florida’s already about out of control,” Grunwald said.
Grunwald isn’t so sure the hunt for Tegus will be as successful as the hunt for Burmese Pythons. That hunt killed 700 pythons since March.
“They’re here get used to them,” Grumwald said.
He says they're harder to see, harder to catch, and hunters will have to rely on traps.
Eradication, he says, is out of the picture. But, he thinks the hunt could help control some of the population.