Florida Iguanas: Unwanted – Dead or Alive

In 2010, a harsh Florida winter cold snap killed a scazillion iguanas. Nine years later, they’re back, crawling all over South Florida, on sidewalks, canal banks, hotfooting it on driveways and local roads, lurking behind cars and in trees. They are everywhere.  Harmless herbivores or prodigious poo makers? It’s a matter of opinion and also attitude.  Now, according to the local media and state agencies, they are Public Enemy No. 1. At least it seems that way.

Here are a dozen things you may or may not want to know about iguanas:

  • Iguanas are scaly reptiles.  They don’t slither but unfortunately most people dislike anything cold-blooded with scales.
  • Most Floridian iguanas are green iguanas and also called tree iguanas.  Because they may be edible, especially with onions and chives, they are often called “tree chicken”.
  • In cold weather (40 to 50 degrees) iguanas become torpid.  I would also say they think slowly (like a number of people I know) but who knows how or what an iguana is thinking.
  • You don’t need a permit to keep one as a pet.  Iguanas are herbivores, they like fruits, vegetables, leaves, stems and they will also share your pizza with you. I have never heard of one eating a family pet.
  • Climate change is causing a rise in temperature: they like it hot. Iguanas like to sun themselves on berms, banks of canals and maybe your backyard or driveway.
  • Unsuspecting iguanas scadoodle across golf courses but no one yells “Fore!”
  • Whether iguanas suffer heat stroke is undocumented.
  • They are overpopulating, reproducing in large numbers, like humans.
  • Troublemakers : On a 1 to 10 scale they are rated 8.
  • There are reports of Salmonella in their poo and iguanas are definitely not inhibited poopers.  (On the other hand, there also could be Salmonella in chicken, on kitchen counters, or raw cookie batter.)
  • Never look up at a tree iguana with your mouth open.

   Homeowners are being taught how to trap  and humanely kill iguanas.  There is no talk of euthanasia, after all, how do you put down a thrashing iguana? It won’t be easy. If you are hoping to drown an iguana, you should know that they are good swimmers. They can stay underwater up to 4 hours at a time which is a lot longer than you or I can do even with Scuba. Bludgeoning is not recommended. It is  cruel, inhumane, and risky business should the iguana recover its senses. Shooting is not allowed due to gun laws and the risk of errant bullets hitting humans (see also https://www.wral.com/florida-iguana-hunter-shoots-pool-boy/18498230/)

  Iguanas are not stupid reptiles, they have a high lizard IQ with an emotional reptilian brain.  They can identify specific human beings – sometimes referred to as iguana “owners”. Does an iguana feel betrayed when someone it knows and recognizes tries to wring its neck? An iguana’s head seems to maintain a sense of awareness for a short period after decapitation. No one knows what is on its mind at that time.

I really don’t understand the uproar about something that conceals itself in a tree, out of sight, and out of mind.  Some people have suggested using deterrents. Maybe I will use wind chimes, water guns, bad breath, or samples of my cooking. Or maybe l will just wait for the next Arctic freeze.  There will be arboreal iguana dead falls by the scazillions.   I can save myself a lot of trouble.

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