Colorful lizard latest exotic to call Southwest Florida home

Southwest Florida’s latest non-native reptile, a colorful lizard with many names, was a no-show Friday.

At 9:15 a.m., Mike Knight, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary resource manager, entered the Tarpon Bay community just east of Interstate 75 to search for Ameiva ameiva, also known as green ameiva, jungle runner, dwarf tegu and South American ground lizard.

Knight, who is also Audubon of Florida’s Invasive Species Task Force coordinator, first saw the species in 2005, 1.6 miles east of Tarpon Bay.

“It darted across the road, but I didn’t think anything about it because I thought it could be an escaped pet,” Knight said. “But during the last cold snap, one turned up frozen on a doorstep in Tarpon Bay. And a Corkscrew volunteer who lived there said, ‘Hey, we’ve got these lizards running all over the place. What are they?’ That’s when I realized they had established a population here.”

Knight has since captured two juvenile Ameiva ameivas and photographed an adult, all of which he sent to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville as vouchers (proof that the species is now in Southwest Florida).

Ameiva ameiva, a native of Central and South America, was first recorded in the United States during the mid-1950s after several escaped from a pet dealer in Miami.

Read full story HERE.


About Candace M Hansen

Wildlife advocate, conservationist and environmentalist.
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