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Large invasive lizard spotted near Florida school

The lizards, called tegus, can grow up to four feet in length. 

<p>Native to South America, tegus can grow up to 4 feet in length. <span style="background-color: rgb(250, 250, 250); color: rgb(100, 100, 100); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; font-style: italic;">(Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission photo by Dennis Giardina)</span></p>

A large invasive lizard has been spotted sunbathing on a road near a Florida elementary school.

Wildlife trapper James Dean said he started receiving phone calls reporting a tegu in southwest Palm Bay during the past week or so, and he toured the residential neighborhood Sunday.

If he can better zero in on the reptile's whereabouts, Dean plans to bait a trap using roadkill — perhaps a possum, raccoon or armadillo — in hopes of capturing the creature.

"It's a 50-50 chance I'm going to get this thing, due to the fact of the terrain that's out there. There's a lot of woods. There's a lot of power lines," Dean said.

"Parents are concerned because school will be starting. And they want this thing caught like yesterday," he added. "They're concerned that it's going to attack children — which it will not."

Native to South America, tegus can grow up to 4 feet in length. The invasive species has established breeding populations in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported.

Tegus live in underground burrows and typically eat fruit, vegetables, eggs, insects, cat or dog food, and small critters like lizards and rodents, according to an FWC tegu brochure.

"While a tegu is not likely to be innately aggressive, it will defend itself if aggravated or threatened. Tegus have sharp teeth, strong jaws and sharp claws, which they will use to defend themselves," the brochure states.

Dean speculated the Palm Bay tegu is an exotic pet that may have escaped from a screened porch. Or, he said the lizard could have been intentionally released into the wild.

Follow Rick Neale on Twitter: @RickNeale1