Iguana iguana native to Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, but not Florida. They are Florida’s most destructive invasive species. It may seem hard to believe with as many as there are. An iguana’s legs short with a long body that can reach up to 6 feet and are covered with short leathery scales. Their tapered tail can be used as a weapon for balance when climbing trees. An iguana’s spine is effective in defending against predation and is primarily herbivorous.
It seems when there is a cold snap it begins to rain iguanas. Since they are native to the warmer equatorial climates, down the come from sea grape and buttonwood trees. Iguanas remain there until the sun warms them up enough to move. This process is call brumation, the reptilian form of mammalian hibernation.
So how did they get here? There is only one industry to blame; the pet trade. With their docile personalities and some finding them cute, they are a very easy sell. But what do you do when they reach 6 feet long? Have them accidentally escape? Or worst just take them out to the Everglades and bid them farewell? This leads them to pull up to their salad bar of choice is shrubs, trees, orchids, figs, mangos, berries, and tomatoes. Water or a backyard swimming pools are the perfect outhouses for them. Then the problems with their breeding. Running into other iguanas they build nest-burrowing digs together that end up ripping up yards, undermines sidewalks, seawalls, and building foundations. Of course, they lay eggs like any other reptile in great numbers.
For the Miami Blue butterfly struggling to recolonize in the Florida Keys, the herbivore green iguana is bad news. Developing a taste for the nickerbean leaves where the blues lay their eggs, the invading iguanas threaten to drive the butterfly into extinction.
Mass eradication efforts of the iguana are not common. The University of Florida recommends people help control the spread of the species by making their yards less iguana-friendly and treating them like the wild animals they are.