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tegu lizards

Frank Artiles takes on the tegu

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The tegu lizard is dead to Frank Artiles.

Artiles, Frank
Artiles

The Republican state senator from Miami-Dade County filed legislation (SB 230) Tuesday to eradicate the non-native reptile from Florida.

The lizard is “decimat(ing) the fauna and flora of the Everglades and other natural areas and ecosystems in the southern and central parts of this state at an accelerating rate,” the bill says.

Tegus, native to South America and brought to Florida as pets, have either escaped or been released over the years, creating new wild populations in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Monitoring these populations and stopping the spread of this species is vital to maintaining Florida’s native wildlife,” an FWC brochure says. “Scientists are concerned that tegus will compete with and prey upon Florida’s native wildlife, including some threatened species.”

Artiles’ bill will set aside $300,000 over two years from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the FWC to create a pilot program, which would use “strategically deployed hunting teams” – or lizard hunters.

Such teams would hunt in the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area “and all other state lands managed by the commission,” the bill says.

“The commission is authorized to enter into memoranda of agreement with other state and local entities to be permitted to deploy teams of hunters in other state and local natural areas,” it adds. “The commission is directed to seek permission from the National Park Service to deploy hunting teams in the Everglades National Park.”

The measure also would require the FWC to “submit a report of findings and recommendations” on the pilot program to the governor and lawmakers by Jan. 1, 2020.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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