I Hate Iguanas!
by Joan Birsh, Member Since 1997
I hope I am not offending any iguana lovers but I feel so strongly about those green monsters, who periodically destroy my landscaping, that I sometimes pray for a cold snap like we’ve just experienced.
Iguanas are an “invasive” species (in every sense of the word) and in 40 degrees and below they fall from the trees where they roost and land on the ground seemingly dead. It is a Florida phenomenon, important enough for the National Weather Service in Miami to have issued this unusual forecast on Jan. 21 – “Falling Iguanas Possible Tonight.”
And sure enough the next morning there were iguanas on the ground, gray and stiff and looking dead as a doornail. And yet by afternoon, when the temperature went up to 60, they had rejuvenated and were back taking nourishment (flowers, bushes, decorative hedges)!
How to evict an iguana
It’s obvious that we can’t count on Mother Nature to rid us of the Iguana Plague. How can we make them go away?
First, I called ORCA and was told that they use Rodney Irwin, Nonnative Invasive Reptile Specialist, to remove iguanas from ORCA property, but this covers only ORCA property, such as the street rights of way. So whatever arrives and establishes Squatters Rights on your property is your problem. ORCA encourages Members, property owners and condo associations to call a professional to control their iguanas instead of attempting to handle the iguanas themselves.
Iguanas on the golf courses
Because I often saw iguanas hanging out on the 5th hole of the Dolphin, I thought it was possible that Juan Gutierrez and his Golf Course Maintenance Team had some kind of “live and let live” policy. I was quickly corrected on that score.
Iguanas are very destructive to our golf courses. They reproduce faster than rabbits with each female producing 25 to 40 eggs (fortunately only a third survive). And they dig holes in the bunkers to bury their eggs. Their poop and scratchy claws can damage the greens.
To prevent the Dolphin and the Hammock golf courses from being overrun by iguanas, the Golf Course Maintenance Team humanely captures them. Since December 1, 2019, they have collected more than 200 iguanas from the courses.
Taking matters into your own hands
There are a number of private companies that offer solutions to the iguana problem for homeowners. Last season a group of us who live on Harbor Island Drive got together and hired the Iguana Control company to rid our neighborhood of a truly unacceptable influx of uninvited lizards.
Has it helped? I’d say yes. This year so far, I’ve spotted only 3 iguanas on our property. Last year I saw 8 or 9 every day. Plus there were always multiple holes in the sand in back of our house. That led me to envision the specter of hundreds of baby iguanas emerging from hatched eggs and growing large and powerful on healthy doses of my bushes and flowers.
Frustrated Members have sometimes tried dire measures to rid their property of iguanas. Pellet guns seem the most popular form of execution.
And there is a system of nipping the problem in the bud by digging up iguana eggs and putting them in the freezer. If you have a freezer big enough, you could even pop the whole iguana in.
Not Everybody Hates Iguana
Iguanas, like pythons, came to Florida as somebody’s pet imported from some other warm place. Then when they got too big to be cuddly (sorry, wrong adjective), they were released to the Everglades.
Amazing to me, but there are sites on the internet for iguana owners.Several people mentioned that out of the cage their pets most enjoyed being with them on their beds. One woman was desperately worried about her iguana’s fertility. It seems she laid only one egg.
Learn to live with an iguana (sort of)
Tell yourself that co-existing with an iguana is one of the exotic attractions of living in the Florida Keys. Be happy that you are offering your children the opportunity to observe a prehistoric lizard in your own backyard. Repeat the mantra “Iguanas are my friends.”
This works perfectly for me until I encounter a big green monster nibbling away at one of my newly flowering bushes and I start to think about the frightening prospect of hundreds of eggs hatching into little iguanas. Then I begin to envision how in time The Reef could be in danger of being overrun by green monsters and I go right back to HATING IGUANAS!