Friday, July 10, 2020

A Spike in the Iguana Population – A Reason for Concern!

Alfred Fermin, AAA Wildlife Trapping & Removal Service, is under contract with the City of Marco Island to catch iguanas. | Photos by Maria Lamb

Green Iguanas are drawn to the same things we love about Southwest Florida: warm and sunny weather, waterfront views with lush vegetation, swimming pools and sunbathing. 

It is believed that green iguanas first appeared in Florida in the 1960s as exotic pets which escaped or were released into the environment and their numbers continued to increase. 

The green iguana is large non-native lizard, usually bright green, with colors ranging from green to brown to almost black. Green iguanas have a row of spikes down the center of the neck, back and upper portion of the tail and have a dark ring on their tail. 

As vegetarians, iguanas feast on hibiscus, orchids, garden greens, bougainvillea, and flowering shrubs with bright yellow, orange or red flowers or fruits. In addition to sunbathing on top of seawalls, they also poop copiously by the poolside, decks, boats and back porches. Any time they are threatened, they just jump in the water and use the canals as highways to get around. They are excellent swimmers. 

Iguanas are also excellent climbers, and can get onto your roof or property by an overhanging “bridge.” Trim branches close to buildings so they can’t jump over. Remove thickets of vegetation and rock piles where iguanas like to congregate or nest. Fill obvious iguana nest holes with sand, rocks or concrete. 

Without natural predators, experts say the iguanas also pose a problem for local wildlife. 

Hope for a harsh winter! Only an unusually long lasting, very cold winter-like temperature can help “trim” the spike in iguana population in Marco Island. Climate change is also in their favor. 

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website, iguanas are attracted to an area for food, cover and nesting. Never feed iguanas or leave food out for wildlife. Once you begin to feed them, they will come to rely on you for food. 

FWC suggests installing metal guards around your palms and dock pilings to prevent iguanas from climbing up. Some iguanas may also dig holes and nest along seawalls, foundation, canal banks or berms. 

The Marco Island City Council has allocated additional funds for the removal of green iguanas and contracted with an iguana trapper to come to Marco once a week. 

According to Alfredo Fermin of AAA Wildlife Trapping & Removal Services, under contract with the City of Marco Island, the iguana problem is out of control in Southwest Florida. Iguanas reproduce at an alarming rate. 

If you want assistance removing iguanas from your property, please call the City of Marco Island.

As the iguana population explodes in Marco Island, so is the cost for containment and control. Even the experts from FWC caution money may be better spent in modifying landscapes to discourage iguanas from being attracted to your property. Or is it time for an Iguana cookbook? 

Habitat Modification: Plant Iguana Resistant Plants 

  • Milkweed 
  • Pentas 
  • Oleander
  • Citrus 
  • Croton 
  • Tough, thick-leaved plants 

Heavily pregnant iguana captured by Alfredo Fermin, AAA Wildlife Trapping & Removal Services. Female iguana lay 30-60 eggs per year and the typical lifespan is 20 years. | Photo by Sharon Epple

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