AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - Auburn University is researching a species that could cause problems in Alabama.
Not uncommon as a pet, Tegu (pronounced TAY-goo) lizards could end up being a threat in more ways than one.
There are 19 Tegu lizards currently being monitored at Auburn in order to see if the state of Alabama has the potential to see a whole lot more of the creatures.
"We have the Tegus up here, exposing them to natural conditions," said David Steen with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program. "If the Tegu's survive, that means they're likely to establish a population. Once there is an established population, there's hundreds if not, thousands of the animals present and at that point, they're hard to remove."
And that's exactly what some are worried about. Tegu's have been causing problems since being found in Florida and could cause even more here.
"There's the potential that the Tegu could become an agricultural pest," Steen said. "If there's a lot of Tegus in a particular area, they could be interested in any vegetable crops and could cause problems for agricultural regions."
Researchers say there haven't been any Tegu sightings in Alabama yet, but there are two possible ways for that to happen.
"If the population of lizards in South Florida expands northward, that means a potential invasion, but that would take many years," Steen said. "Another way Tegu lizards could become established in the state is by a number of pets being released."
Researchers say the lizard can lay anywhere from 25 to 50 eggs at time, making it even more likely to spread.