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Are tegu lizards dangerous?

Tegus are some of the largest lizards out there, yet they are relatively harmless to humans.

Tegu attacks are rare but getting bitten by a tegu can be a very painful experience that requires medical attention. Regardless, tegus that are raised in captivity develop a tame disposition and rarely show signs of aggression.

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Despite being harmless to humans, wild tegu lizards pose a threat to other species especially in the US where they have become an invasive species after being introduced from South America.

Wild tegus are not venomous nor dangerous to humans.
A wild Argentine tegu. Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis.

Tegu attacks on human

Wild tegus can be aggressive but even then they rarely ever attack humans. If they do, they might start tail whipping and biting, which can hurt, a lot. Tegu lizards are actually equipped with sharp mammal-like teeth and have a powerful, ferocious bite that can break bones.

Luckily they are not big enough to seriously harm an adult person (although they technically could bite your finger off, so don’t try their patience) and tegus attacks are rare.

Getting bitten by a tegu is comparable to getting bitten by a dog and it may require medical attention in some cases. One man in Brazil was hurt by a wild tegu while trying to defend its dog, he had laceration on the top of his finger and excruciating pain for several hours.

Tegu venom

Tegu lizards are neither poisonous nor venomous. Most species of lizards (e.g. monitor lizards) contain venom glands and venomous substances in their saliva, this is not the case for tegus. Their bite is not venomous although bite injuries can still get infected and need to be treated accordingly.

Like all reptiles, tegus contain moderate amounts of harmful bacteria such as salmonella in their bodies which can potentially be transmitted to humans through their bite and droppings.

Threats to other species

Tegus are omnivore and especially good at preying on other animal eggs. They have been observed feeding on both bird and crocodile eggs in the wild, which is a concern in some US states such as Florida and Georgia where they have been introduced in recent years through the pet trade market and have become an invasive species.

Wild tegu diet also consists primarily of insects when they are juvenile, but as adults they grow big enough to prey on rodents and birds, and they could potentially harm larger animals. Domisticated tegus are however generally not a threat to other pets such as cats and dogs.


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