The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reaching out to homeowners across the Sunshine State to help them in the culling of invasive green iguanas.
“Homeowners do not need a permit to kill iguanas on their own property, and the FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” the FWC statement reads. “Iguanas can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in South Florida.”
Cold weather had been the natural killer of the invasive species, but the recent stretch of warm weather has allowed for the green iguana population to flourish.
According to FWC, “green iguana populations now stretch along the Atlantic Coast in Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties and along the Gulf Coast in Collier and Lee Counties.”
Cooper City homeowner Mike Espada told WPBF News that the green iguana issue has grown out of control.
“Some days we come home, there’s 20 or 30 of them all over the property,” he explained. “We can’t even get in the front door sometimes. They’re in our courtyard, and so we actually have to find a different door to get in the house. We’ve become the guests. They’re the residents now.”
University of Florida wildlife scientist Joseph Wasilewski believes the population problem could get worse with rising temperatures.
“As the climate changes, even slightly, they can be established into Florida counties beyond their present distribution,” he told ABC News.
These creatures, which can live up to 10 years, grow up to 5 feet and weigh as much as 17 pounds, are extremely destructive.
“They will destroy agriculture, undermine roads, cause electrical transformers to fail. They can transmit salmonella and can be a FAA safety hazard,” explained Wasilewski.
With no natural predators, plenty of available food sources and the ability to lay up to 76 eggs, the problem doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Researchers are also finding that the invasive iguanas, much like the pythons plaguing the Florida Everglades, are affecting endangered species.
For example, despite being primarily herbivores, the remains of endangered tree snails were found in the stomachs of green iguanas in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
Researchers also noted that green iguanas in Bahia Honda State Park have been consuming nickerbean – a host plant of the endangered Miami Blue butterfly.
In early 2018, a 15-member team from UF began killing iguanas with a bolt gun similar to the one used on livestock.
“Most of what we’re doing is blunt force trauma,” said UF wildlife biologist Jenny Ketterlin. “Hitting their head very hard against a solid object.”
The tool, which was used to kill close to 250 iguanas in Davie over the course of three months, was chosen over other methods that were considered inefficient or inhumane.
FWC didn’t offer any advice to homeowners on how to dispatch the reptile nuisances. However, if a property owner can’t bring themselves to kill the creature, there are always removal services.
Full-time firefighter Perry Colato started Redline Iguana Removal as an answer to the iguana infestation taking hold in South Florida.
For Colato and co-owner Blake Wilkins, getting to the iguanas before they breed is key.
“Right now, they’re starting to lay their eggs, and our goal is to get them out before they start to lay those eggs,” he told WPBF.
Kevin Castaneda is the Managing Editor at FloridaInsider.com. His years of experience in journalism, broadcasting and multimedia include roles as a Writer and Web Producer at CBS Miami. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science and Communication.