Beginning in the 1960's, Iguanas brought into Florida as pets began to be released into the ecosystem. This gradual buildup of invasive species began to slowly wreak havoc on the ecosystem, as Iguanas displace native birds from nests, consume bird eggs, foliage, flowers and also burrow deep underground, under utilities and roadways. Due to these problems, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) has declared a problem at large and authorized civilians to neutralize and dispose of iguanas. FWC has provided a set of guidelines and anti-cruelty directions which our operators follow closely. Below is a primer on the Facts and Guidelines.
The Invasive Problem
We have a serious problem
Although invasive species are not a problem unique to Florida, our subtropical climate has been conducive to the expansion of many nonnative species including pythons, large lizards such as monitors and iguanas, many freshwater fish species and marine species such as the lionfish. The citizens of Florida, particularly south Florida, frequently encounter these nonnative species.
As you can see on the map, over 55,000 observations of nonnative wildlife have been recorded in our state since 1924, representing over 500 different species. Despite it being illegal to release any animal nonnative to Florida, it is believed that most of these observations represent single individuals that may have been released or escaped from captivity. Of the 500 species, we estimate that more than 150 have reproducing populations, 50 of which are nonnative reptiles. Although this number seems high, not all observed nonnative species result in established reproducing populations. Of those species that do become established, few of these are considered invasive.
The Invasive Curve
The problem is here to stay
The Wildlife Impact Management section within the FWC is charged with determining which of these nonnative fish and wildlife species may become established and cause a problem. The term “invasive” applies to wildlife that pose a threat to the environment, the economy, or human health and safety. This slide illustrates what has been referred to as the invasion curve. As more area becomes occupied with an invasive species, the less likely the species will be eradicated and costs of management increase.
Preventing the release and establishment of nonnative wildlife is key; however, some species, like the green iguana are well established in Florida and require asset‐based protection and long‐term management strategies.
Say goodbye to your florals
As previously mentioned, an invasive species can impart harm to the environment, the economy or human health and safety.
Due to their herbivorous nature, green iguanas are not typically considered a serious risk to Florida’s natural resources across their introduced range; however, they may impact some sensitive ecological systems. Iguanas may consume threatened or endangered plant species and can function as a seed disperser, potentially acting as a means to spread native or nonnative plants. Green iguanas have also been documented consuming the nicker bean plant, a larval host plant of the endangered Miami blue butterfly (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri) in Bahia Honda State Park, though this relationship is not fully understood. Iguanas will occasionally consume small animal prey items as well. Lined tree snails (Drymaeus multilineatus) have been found in stomach contents of green iguanas collected from the wild in Florida.
Green iguanas may also use burrows of other wildlife, including state‐listed burrowing owls and gopher tortoises, potentially competing with these native species for resources.
Concerns we hear from our many of our constituents relate to green iguana impact on personal property, such as digging or burrowing into seawalls, destruction of ornamental plants and defecation on walkways, docks, and in pools.
Because of these impacts combined with potential impacts to our sensitive natural resources in the Florida Keys, the FWC has launched public technical assistance workshops regarding iguanas.
Can Iguanas be relocated?
When we capture a nuisance iguana, we must then determine what to do with the animal. There are limited live donation options, as most zoos, museums and wildlife care centers that have iguanas are already at maximum capacity. Since state rule prohibits the introduction of nonnative species, they cannot be relocated and released in another area. Captured iguanas must be humanely euthanized. Note ‐wild iguanas generally are not tame and usually do not make good pets.
It must be ethical
Humane killing of captured iguanas will be the most effective option for many homeowners. Iguanas and all other wildlife are protected by anticruelty laws, and inhumane treatment of them is prohibited and punishable by state law. Inhumane treatment includes the use of poisons to kill iguanas; no poisons are legal to use on iguanas or any other reptile in Florida. Homeowners that want to humanely kill iguanas can contact local veterinarians to inquire about the cost and availability of services in their area. Homeowners that desire to kill the iguana themselves must do so humanely. Homeowners can use firearms to dispatch iguanas. However the FWC strongly recommends homeowners contact their local Sheriff’s Office to inquire about local firearm ordinances before discharging any firearms.