Florida residents are being told by a state wildlife agency that the green iguanas they see on their properties are not welcome.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has targeted green iguanas as an invasive species and is telling homeowners to kill them “whenever possible.”
(Video: YouTube/NBC2 News)
“Green iguanas are not native to Florida and are considered to be an invasive species due to the damage they can cause to seawalls, sidewalks, and landscape plants,” the agency said in a directive issued on their website.
“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 agency added. “Iguanas can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in south Florida.
“Native to Central America, tropical parts of South America and a few Caribbean islands, the iguanas are not always green and have quickly multiplied in south Florida where the warm, tropical climate has helped them flourish.
“Iguanas have proliferated with such intensity in Southern Florida that they are now a common sight from the suburbs into the city,” Rob Magill, a zoologist with the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, told ABC News.
Though not dangerous, the creatures with a row of spikes down the center of their neck, back and tail can create damage as they build tunnels.
“Green iguanas can cause damage to residential and commercial landscape vegetation, and are often considered a nuisance by property owners,” the wildlife agency said. “Some green iguanas cause damage to infrastructure by digging burrows that erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, seawalls, berms and canal banks. Green iguanas may also leave droppings on docks, moored boats, seawalls, porches, decks, pool platforms and inside swimming pools.”
The males in the species can grow to over 5 feet long and can weigh up to 17 pounds. The iguanas can lay up to 76 eggs per year.
“This is a serious problem from many standpoints,” University of Florida scientist Joseph Wasilewski told ABC News. “They will destroy agriculture, undermine roads, cause electrical transformers to fail, they can transmit salmonella and can be a FAA safety hazard.”
Southeast Florida has seen more than 3,000 green iguanas since 2005 when the Center for Invasive Species at the University of Georgia started tracking, ABC News reported. And the summer’s warmer temperatures only make the situation worse.
“Unfortunately, short of removing all vegetation and any water features, iguanas are here to stay and we are going to have to learn to live with them,” Magill said.
“In Central America, iguana is considered a delicacy and there are actually farms that raise them for meat. If that sentiment could take hold here, the desire for cheap and tasty protein could play a significant role in controlling their numbers,” he added.
While he acknowledges the problem caused by the rapid multiplication of the creatures, Wasilewski is also sorry about the solution.
“It saddens me that all of these magnificent animals, along with multitudes of other invasive reptile species have to be put down,” he said. “There is no alternative for the problems.”
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