Orlando, Fla.—Perhaps you’ve already heard that Iguanas are becoming a nuisance for South Florida residents. The green iguana (Iguana iguana) is a large lizard that is green to brown to almost black in color, although they usually remain predominantly green as they mature. Some adults can take on an orange or pink coloration during certain times of the year. Hatchling and young green iguanas usually have bright green coloration. It is important to know that iguanas can:
• Cause erosion
• Cause degradation of infrastructure such as water control structures, canal banks, sea walls and building foundations.
• Eat ornamental plants and can carry salmonella.
Captive held iguanas are regulated as Class III wildlife in the State of Florida. A permit is not required to possess green iguanas as personal pets. However, a License to Possess Class III Wildlife for Exhibition or Public Sale must be obtained to possess these reptiles for commercial use and a Captive Wildlife Importation Permit is required to import this species into the state. Male green iguanas can grow to over 5 feet in length and weigh up to 17 pounds. Females reach lengths similar to those of males, but usually do not exceed 7 pounds. Females typically reach reproductive maturity at two to four years of age. Green iguanas typically mate in October through November in their native range, and nesting occurs on riverbanks, beaches and other sandy areas. Females dig egg chambers that may contain nearly 80 feet of interconnected tunnels and multiple entrances and lay clutches of anywhere from 14-76 eggs. Green iguanas can live up to 10 years in the wild and 19 years in captivity.
These reptiles are native to Central and South America and some eastern Caribbean Islands, and have been spotted in Florida since the 1960’s in Hialeah, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne along Miami-Dade County’s southeastern coast. Green iguanas also began to take over Puerto Rico in the early 2000s, undermining roadways, chomping on native plants and harassing islanders. A bounty of up to $6 per pound was placed on the creatures’ heads. Similar to Florida’s python hunt, the Puerto Rican government issued permits in 2012 for private companies to legally hunt iguanas.
After a warm winter and now with record-breaking summer heat — the kind of weather iguanas thrive in — the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has declared open season on the exotic reptile. Its population is already too big, and officials are encouraging residents to kill them— as they are considered a nuisance. The only natural population control that works with green iguanas is temperature: They don’t like cold weather.
This species is not protected in Florida expect by anti-cruelty law. Homeowners don’t need a permit to kill iguanas on their own property, and the FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible. Iguanas can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in south Florida.
In Florida we are not accustomed to see them as food, but other states order iguana meat from companies such as Exotic Meat Markets, a California-based company that imports 10,000 pounds of iguana a month from Florida trappers. According to his declarations to a local media, they sell the meat to customers and restaurants across the United States, offering boneless meat for $59.99 per pound and whole, skin-on iguana for $49.99. Selling iguanas requires a Florida wildlife license, though a permit is not needed to possess one, and there is no prohibition on who can buy an iguana.