The Green Iguana is native to South & Central America, Mexico, and some islands of the Caribbean but, once again, because of the popularity of the iguana in the pet trade they have become invasive in South Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Growing to nearly 6 feet in length including the long tail, the green Iguana can reach a weight of almost 20 pounds. Green iguanas have excellent vision, enabling them to detect shapes and motions at long distances. They are also excellent climbers and swimmers, able to stay submerged for up to 4 hours and swim by propelling themselves with their long powerful tail.
Green iguanas are primarily herbivores and feed on a wide variety of vegetation, including shoots, leaves, blossoms and fruits of plants such as nickerbean, firebush, jasmine, orchids, roses, Washington fan palms, hibiscuses, garden greens, squashes and melons. Adult green iguanas can also feed on bird eggs and dead animals. Juvenile green iguanas feed on vegetation, insects and tree snails.
Iguanas are not cold hearty, and their range is limited by temperature similar to the invasive Burmese Python. During especially cold times in South Florida the iguanas can be found dropping out of trees as their metabolism slows down and they lose their grip on the tree branch they were holding on to. Amazingly, the green iguana can survive falls of up to 50 feet and will often warm up and ‘come back to life’ after the cold spell ends.
Why is the Green Iguana a problem?
Not everybody dislikes the invasive green iguana. They are popular pets for a reason – their striking dinosaur like appearance and ability to be raised and handled comfortably. However the iguana can be incredibly destructive because of their rapid and successful breeding and voracious appetites for expensive ornamental yard plants. Iguanas are attracted to trees with foliage or flowers, most fruits (except citrus) and almost any vegetable. Some green iguanas cause damage to infrastructure by digging burrows that erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, seawalls, berms and canal banks. Green iguanas may also leave droppings on docks, moored boats, seawalls, porches, decks, pool platforms and inside swimming pools.
Although primarily herbivores, researchers found the remains of tree snails in the stomachs of green iguanas in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, suggesting that iguanas could present a threat to native and endangered species of tree snails. In Bahia Honda State Park, green iguanas have consumed nickerbean, which is a host plant of the endangered Miami Blue butterfly. As is the case with other reptiles, green iguanas can also transmit the infectious bacterium Salmonella to humans through contact with water or surfaces contaminated by their feces. The green iguana can now be found sunbathing around most hotels in the Florida Keys competing with the coconut-oiled tourists for lounge space by the pool.
What is Ennds.org doing to help control the invasive green iguana?
Unlike some of the other other more dangerous invasive reptiles like the Black and White Tegu or the Nile Monitor, the Green Iguana is relatively easy to capture by using a long fishing pole with a looped wire at the end or by trapping. Homeowners can remove the iguanas if they are on your property but they must be euthanized humanely. Ennds.org has been working with our partners on training homeowners to deal with the iguanas and by teaching proper trapping and handling methods. If you are interested in assisting Ennds with our invasive species control work please feel free to contact us or follow along on our Facebook page for the latest news and upcoming events.
Did you see an invasive Green Iguana? Take a picture, note the location and report it to FWC through their Exotic Species Reporting Hotline:
Call 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (1-888-483-4681)
You can also report sightings of invasive species and see distribution maps online by clicking here.