Green iguanas are one of several exotic reptile species introduced to the south Florida area over the last 40 years. Hatching from their eggs at about 6 inches long these lizards can grow over one foot per year, reaching a maximum length of around 6 feet.
After hatching, green iguana's diet consists mostly of insects, this will provide the protein required for their first year of rapid growth. After this initial growth spurt, green iguanas "go vegetarian" and switch over to a plants only diet.
In Miami these vegetarian pests have a reputation of destroying ornamental landscaping and raid flowerbeds entirely of blooms. Green iguanas are not typically aggressive but will defend themselves by biting and scratching if an attempt to handle the animal is made. Bites to people are rare and only occur when animals are harassed (grabbed, poked, pushed etc) or fed. Wild iguanas should not be fed.. they can not tell where the food ends and your fingers begin.
Green iguanas become nuisance animals when destroy landscaping, soil seawalls and docks, boats, etc. with their droppings. Just like bird droppings iguana feces may contain forms of the Salmonella bacteria (a common form of food poisoning). Occasionally green iguanas may even take up residence in someones attic.
Trapping nuisance iguanas in the most reliable solution to these problems. Trapping iguanas can be complex and frustrating. Exotic animal trapping is based on the knowledge and experience of the trapper. There is no specific "iguana trap" made to capture only this species, iguana repellent and similar chemicals simply do not work. We know because we get the call ..usually after a frustrated homeowner has tried everything else.
A skilled iguana trapper will be able to explain the animals habits in a way you can understand. Good iguana trappers will be able to capture the animals on site or set traps, returning until the problem animal(s) is caught or the creature simply moves on. Spiny Tail Iguanas, Knight Anoles, and Brown Basilisk lizards, are often confused with common green iguanas.
All of these lizard species have been imported for the pet trade or hitchhiked along with cargo on ships from Central and South America to make south Florida their home. Because these lizards are originally from warmer climates breeding is limited to the southern counties of Florida (all of the above are breeding here in Miami-Dade county). Animals which escape or are released further north struggle to survive the winter and typically die without reproducing.
Even in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties a cold winter can take it's toll on feral iguanas, temperatures dipping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit often kill iguanas where they rest. After sunrise on a brisk morning cold-paralyzed iguanas can be seen falling from trees, or dead on the ground. This situation is almost an annual occurrence in coastal communities such as Key Biscayne and Ocean Reef Club.
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