— They're not Godzilla size but large, nonnative lizards in two South Florida counties are being hunted down after alarming humans, including a homeowner who found one that slipped through a doggie door.
Nine of the critters — formally known as Nile monitor lizards — were seen recently in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission warned.
"This is a high-priority species for us," Scott Hardin, who coordinates nonnative species programs at the commission, said in a statement Tuesday. "We plan to go after them aggressively to either try to eradicate them or suppress their numbers if they are determined to be established."
The commission urged residents to report sightings to 888-IVE-GOT1 instead of trying to deal with them personally.
"Monitor lizards may exceed 7 feet in length and are known to be very defensive when cornered, so the FWC discourages attempts to capture the lizards," the statement said. "They are known to be more active during the hot summer months, explaining why reports have increased."
Wildlife officials believe residents of South Florida who collect exotic animals as pets released the animals into the wild, either after the animals got too big or because they just didn't want the reptiles anymore, nbcmiami.com reported.
The commission said it was worried the lizards would undermine the natural ecosystem of the area.
"Nile monitors are large, predatory lizards native to Africa," it stated. "This species nests around water, and the FWC is concerned about potential predation in bird rookeries."
A population of Nile monitors is already established in an area of Cape Coral, on the southwest coast of Florida, it added.