VALDOSTA — As if the Wood Valley area hasn’t had enough problems with reptiles, a large South American lizard ran out between a yard worker's legs and hid in a garage until authorities could gather it up.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources recently responded to a sighting of a large non-native lizard in the same neighborhood plagued with fear in 2018 by the escape of several snakes from a home, DNR Capt. Scott Klingel said Monday.

On June 17, a yard worker at a Gornto Road home was trimming hedges when the lizard shot out between his legs, said Joyce Lisi, who lives there.

The big lizard hid under her car until help came to remove it, she said.

"It was never aggressive," she said. "It just seemed to want to hide."

The DNR sent biologists to study the lizard, which turned out to be an Argentine tegu, a South American lizard which has become popular in the pet trade, Klingel said.

In May 2018, search warrants were executed on a Riverside Drive house where a resident was suspected of keeping exotic illegal pets. The man who lived at the house was keeping reptiles for buying and selling, Klingel said. A number of harmless African ball pythons were believed to have escaped the house, causing concern in the Wood Valley neighborhood. Lisi said her house in only a few blocks from the house in the snake situation.

Klingel said while that man did have Argentine tegus, it is unclear if the one recently spotted in Valdosta is one of his.

“There’s a breeding population of (tegus) around Vidalia,” he said. 

Argentine tegus are legal to own and are non-venomous, Klingel said. 

Lisi hopes nothing happens to the tegu.

"I hope they don't euthanize it," she said. "It didn't hiss or anything. I was told they can even be trained."

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