Argentine Black and White Tegu in South Carolina
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has implemented recently passed legislation that prohibits the release of wildlife that is not native to South Carolina and that allows the agency to promulgate regulations to prohibit or restrict certain species of nonnative wildlife that has the potential to become established and become a nuisance and/or demonstrate a threat to wildlife, agriculture or human health.
The Argentine Black and White Tegu (Salvator meriane) is one of many species of Tegu but is the largest and is a predatory omnivorous lizard that occurs widely in South America in a variety of habitats and climates. This species has gained popularity in the pet trade, in part, due to its large size, intelligence, docility and hardiness.
This species has been introduced and established in multiple areas outside of its native range, including Florida and Georgia. This species has recently been documented in numerous counties in South Carolina, and as the invasive potential of this species has been recognized, both Florida and Alabama have enacted restrictions for this and other Tegu species. Because South Carolina provides the species a suitable habitat and climate, Black and White Tegus, and their hybrids, have been added to the list of Restricted Nonnative Wildlife.
The new regulations, enacted on May 28, 2021, prohibit Tegus and their hybrids to be reproduced or brought into South Carolina, and require owners to register their Black and White Tegus and hybrids with SCDNR by September 25, 2021. After this date, no unregistered Black and White Tegu may be possessed and no Tegu may be bought, sold or transferred. As of July 1, 2021, owners who do not wish to register their tegus may voluntarily surrender their animals to SCDNR. For more information about the registration process, the voluntary surrender program, and specific information regarding the new regulations, please see the Additional Resources links and Frequently Asked Questions below.
- Application for Possession of Restricted Non-Native Wildlife
- Restricted Non-Native Wildlife Regulations
- Tegu Voluntary Surrender Program
- Acrobat PDF Reader
Tegu Frequently Asked Questions
This regulation makes it unlawful for any person or entity to possess, sell, offer for sale, transfer possession of, import, bring, release, reproduce, allow to escape, or cause to be brought or imported into the state of South Carolina, unless authorized by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
This regulation requires all owners of Black and White Tegus to register them. The regulation also requires that Black and White Tegus be kept indoors in escape proof enclosures or if kept outdoors to be in locked enclosures with primary and secondary containment barriers, each sufficient to prevent escape, and reviewed by SCDNR.
This regulation was created because South Carolina provides suitable habitat and climate for this species. Tegus compete, and in some cases outcompete, native species for resources. They have been documented to eat a variety of native species like quail, gopher tortoise, a South Carolina endangered species, insects, mammals, other reptiles, amphibians, birds and eggs of various birds and reptiles. Additionally, Tegus may harbor and spread nonindigenous parasites and/or pathogens to our native wildlife species.
Black and White Tegu owners will need to have all Black and White Tegus registered by Saturday, September 25, 2021, 120 days from May 28, 2021, when the registration period ends.
Owners will need to microchip their Black and White Tegu at their expense.
Using the unique identification number provided with the microchip, you will need to register your Tegu with SCDNR by filling out the Application for Possession of Restricted Non-Native Wildlife.
Submit your application and receive a permit from SCDNR.
Beginning July 1, 2021, owners that do not wish to register their tegus are eligible to participate in the Tegu Voluntary Surrender Program until September 25, 2021. Owners that voluntarily surrender Black and White Tegus to the Department will receive $100, as long as funds remain available. For information on how to surrender a tegu, please see: Tegu Voluntary Surrender Program
Yes, permits for registered Black and White Tegus will expire after three years. Owners will need to renew their permit within 30 days of expiration.
Permits cannot be transferred.
If Black and White Tegus are removed from South Carolina or die, the possession permit becomes void and must be surrendered to SCDNR within five days. Escaped or missing Black and White Tegus must be reported to SCDNR within 24 hours.
Registering your Tegu with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources will not cost anything. However, there may be a charge at the owner’s expense to microchip your Black and White Tegu. Costs will vary depending on how you choose to microchip your Black and White Tegu.
Black and White Tegus can be microchipped by their owners or veterinarians.
Violation of this regulation may result in fines of up to $2500 and/or 1 year in jail per animal.
Please report the sighting by completing the reporting form.
SCDNR HerpetologyPh: (803) 734-3886