We all have been reading and seeing the “Green Plague” news segments that have been affecting the waters north of us due to the draining of Lake Okeechobee. There is another green plague that has been affecting South Florida for a long time, the wave of green iguanas that have become an environmental menace to South Florida and their sheer numbers.
I see them in big numbers in the marina as I come to work. As you walk the dock, they generally dive off the dock like Olympic swimmers with uncanny perfection and stay submerged for 20-30 ft. Once you pass, they swim back, climb the pilings and resume pooping all over the place. They crave the heat from docks and seawalls that are perfect sun pads as is the shiny fiberglass surface of a boat. The down-side is getting off a boat when someone approaches, and these guys can hide and often with no escape. If you ever experienced the delightful odor of dead fish after a few days, multiply that tenfold for a dead iguana.
The Sun Sentinel posted an article from a Fort Lauderdale-based iguana control company that there are literally hundreds of thousands of these invasive guys creeping around from Palm Beach to Miami. Just like Pythons, Lionfish and many other invasive species roaming our ecosystem, the problem began with the iguana in the early 60’s as irresponsible pet owners released them into the wild. Once a male and female hook up, the female can lay as many as 50 eggs a year and some documented research has indicated twice a year; do the math.
Florida Power & Light contributes about 8 percent of power outages due to animals and birds, but in South Florida iguanas are the second leading cause of power outages behind squirrels. They cause internet, phone and power issues daily, damage landscapes, levees, seawalls, roofs and patios, and love to leave calling cards in our pools and walkways.
Many of these guys live in very organized tunnel systems along seawalls, which eventually undermine the safety of many front yards or sidewalks and foundations along canals and the Intracoastal Waterway. They also live in Palm trees where they lay eggs and eat bird eggs and other dead animals, which means they also carry diseases! Green Iguanas live up to 10 years and grow to over 5 ft. in length. An adult male weighing in at 17 lbs. can decimate a manicured landscape in days, and where there is 1 there are 20.
Because iguanas are a popular meat in some Latin American regions and throughout certain Caribbean islands, someone will eventually borrow the Tuna moniker and start selling iguana meat as “Chicken of the Trees.” Until then, The State of Florida encourages removal of green iguanas without a license. That doesn’t mean you can blast away with a shotgun or any other type of weapon, except for a pellet gun. More impending is they must be targeted directly to the head to kill them humanely. If you’re a crappy shot and can’t do it the first time, please reconsider your options. Keep in mind, as fascinating as it is to watch these prehistoric-looking creatures, they are invasive and without serious control you soon might see it on the menu at your favorite restaurant. Bon Appetit!