The Great Iguana Invasion: They Seem To Be Everywhere, But No One Knows Just How Many Are Around Us

Jul 1, 2018

Iguana removal experts say this year be might record-setting in the number of invasive reptiles that are creeping around South Florida.

There's no way to get a firm estimate of the exact number of invasive iguanas in the state. They haven't been counted because state resources have been put in other areas, like the fight to eradicate burmese python out of the Everglades, said Joe Wasilewski, a conservation biologist and president of environmental consulting firm Natural Selections of South Florida. 

“Since the iguanas are more vegetarian and less likely to get 18-feet long, less funding and effort was spent on them," he said. "And what happened in the interim, their population literally exploded.”

Iguanas have been in Florida since the 1960s, but there has been a noted increase in "human conflicts," according to Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) exotic species coordinator Kristin Sommers in an interview with the Associated Press.

In the Florida Keys, the animals have been known to damage wildlife areas and threaten sewage lines.

More often than not, the iguanas found in South Florida — the common green iguana and the spiny tale iguana — are seen near or in canals, or in big open areas with water nearby like golf courses and tree hammocks. 

Wasilewski has previously called them a "green plague."

According to the FWC, iguanas are not protected in Florida except by anti-animal cruelty laws. It is legal to shoot them on private property during daylight hours with the property owners' permission — but everyone should check with their local law enforcement agency about local laws regarding firearms before discharging them.

We asked you what you think about the great iguana invasion.  Here are some of your stories and experiences:

One Iguana Too Many

Rachel O'Hara only thought there was one iguana hanging out by her apartment complex in Boynton Beach. She was wrong. There were multiple — at least three. She sent us a voice memo detailing one of her first iguana encounters. (The following excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Credit Rachel O'Hara

"One of the iguanas decided to make his way down from his perch and come right near my lounge chair," she said. "And I couldn’t figure out what he wanted and those claws and that tail are far too scary for me. 

So I left my lounge chair for a solid ten minutes and went to the other side of the pool while he munched on a hibiscus flower and then decided to finally go away. Going to the pool could be a little more exciting when you live in Florida."

There's Something In The Coffee

Sally Binard in Key West wrote us an Instagram message about the time that an iguana pooped in her coffee. 

On another morning, allegedly the same exact one fell out of a tree right next to where she was enjoying her morning joe.

Binard says she's nearly ready to call the tree trimmer because she's afraid to sit in her favorite spot these days.

We don't blame you, Sally.

Better Than The Ducks

Charlie G. in Delray Beach enjoys the iguanas.

"They're a regular presence on campus at Florida Atlantic University and in our backyard canal, whether sunning themselves or everything else iguanas do," he texted WLRN.

"Iguanas are much more enjoyable fauna than the omnipresent Muscovy ducks who frequent the same spaces, but are more of a nuisance with their noise and their poop."

Chicken Of The Trees?

Shelley C. in Delray Beach texted us too about having what she calls a "horrible nuisance to homeowners and their gardens." 

One of my workers hit one on her scooter yesterday on the way home from work. Last night she grilled it up and brought it into work for everyone today.

Too Many Bad Experiences

Lisa loves her beautiful condo in Deerfield Beach, except she’s had so many bad iguana experiences there. Here are a couple that she texted WLRN about:

  • “I have had them fighting above me in the banyan trees only to have the loser fall down next to me.”
  • “Watched one eat a smaller different species lizard and felt I was living in Jurassic Park.”
  • “I went for a run and had black rotting dead iguana body parts falling on me from the trees. I have gotten used to them.”

Chubby Iguanas

Carolyn M. in Margate told us via text message that she has "dozens of youngsters" that come through her chain-link fence.

According to her, the iguanas "lounge around the pool, til' our chihuahuas chase them back through the fence to the canal. Occasionally, a fat one gets stuck and has to be helped."

Over, she says, they're no more of a problem than the noisy birds that inhabit this same area.

Here are some tips from the FWC on how to keep the iguanas away from your home: 

  • Removing plants that act as attractants
  • Filling in holes to discourage burrowing
  • Hanging wind chimes or other items that make intermittent noises
  • Hanging CDs that have reflective surfaces!
  • Spraying the animals with water as a deterrent