Florida’s unusually cold temperatures are putting iguanas into a catatonic state

Chris White, DCNF

Near freezing temperatures in Florida are causing the state’s iguana populations to go into a catatonic state and plummet from their tree perches.

Temperatures in the southern part of the state dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which iguanas usually freeze. The cold-blooded creature gets sluggish when temperatures fall below 50 degrees.

“It’s too cold for them to move,” Kristen Sommers, who oversees the fish and wildlife program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told reporters Thursday. They don’t necessarily die from this catatonic state, so people should keep a wide berth in case they bite once warmed up, she added.

Green iguanas, most of which can grow up to 5 feet in length, are known for tearing up landscape barriers and creating burrows and tunnels that can damage infrastructure. Their droppings can also be sources of salmonella bacteria.

“This provides an opportunity to capture some, but I’m not sure it’s going to be cold enough for long enough to make enough of a difference,” she said. “In most cases, they’re going to warm back up and move around again, unless they’re euthanized.”

Arctic blasts have blanketed most of the country underneath a thick sheen of snow – icy conditions have hit southern states as well. It snowed briefly for the first time in 28 years Wednesday in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee.

Snow covered approximately 49 percent of the northern section of the country leading up to Christmas Day. It made a white Christmas for almost half of the country, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Snowmelt in recent days across reduced the percentage, but not much.

Most of the loss occurred in the southern states where temperatures are warmer, but the northern states remain in winter’s icy grip.

Snowstorms and frigid temperatures continue to pound parts of the Northeast and the Midwest. A Pennsylvania county was clobbered with 60 inches of snow in two days following Christmas Day – the storm shattered records and required the national guard to help keep the roads clear and residents safe.

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