Are Florida Iguanas Disappearing?
My parents thought I was crazy. My family and I moved into our lake front Florida home a couple of years ago. There were iguanas everywhere and I was fascinated by them. I watched them and I took pictures of them. I would email the pictures to my parents and they had no idea why I thought that they would care. They thought I was nuts. You don’t see these creatures just anywhere! Many people go through life having never seen an iguana in person. We not only had them in our backyard, but we would see them all over town–only around water, which is everywhere here. Many people consider them to be pests as they are so invasive.
I would see iguanas in and around our yard from tiny four-inch long babies (which at first we thought were lizards) to really huge ones. The biggest one that I saw in our back yard was at least four- to five-foot long from nose to tip of tail! I always got excited when I saw them because they’re so “different” looking, almost pre-historic. My kids thought they looked like dragons.
Iguana Pictures (click image for a larger view)
Well, the iguanas are now gone. They seem to have disappeared. I actually noticed several months ago that I wasn’t seeing them anymore, but then I’d get distracted and forget to look further into it. I did know, however, that many of them died. One large one actually died underneath our deck and my husband and I only noticed once it started to decompose, at which point our backyard smelled so bad! Removing the carcass was not fun.
Last winter (2009-10), Florida experienced some record low temperatures. For many its residents, it was a welcome change. Not so much for the iguanas.
Many of the iguanas died because their bodies couldn’t handle the cold weather. I had heard about it on the news, yet over the past year I found it hard to believe that the cold weather killed ALL of them. Seriously-I had not seen a single one anywhere where we used to see so many of them!
The Last Remaining Iguana
Yesterday I drove by a canal a few miles away from our house where I always used to see lots of iguanas on the canal’s shore. I made sure to look this time to see if I could spot any signs of life and what I saw was the absolute biggest iguana I’ve ever seen. I screamed with excitement! I felt like I was looking at the last remaining–or the only surviving–one! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture of it because I was driving on a busy street, but I did jot a note to myself to see if I could find out just what has happened to all of the iguanas.
More Iguana PicturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
So that’s what I did. As it turns out, in some places down in Miami it was raining iguanas! Okay, not really raining iguanas, but they were dropping to the ground from the trees-kamikaze iguanas they were being called. You see, iguanas prefer temperatures in the 80s and 90s. They are native to South America, not Florida. They were first introduced to Florida by careless pet owners who set them free when they became too much to care for. They have since become one of Florida’s most invasive species.
Last winter the temperature fell to the low to mid thirties at night, causing the iguanas to go into sort of a state of hibernation – they do this when the temperature drops below 40. Their hearts still pump blood, but their body essentially shuts off and they appear to be dead. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees they’re revived, unless it stays below 40 for a couple of days and then they could die.
I don’t recall if we had two to three days of below 40 degree temperatures last winter or not, but we must have because the iguanas have not returned even one year later. Many people are happy to be rid of them. I kind of miss seeing them.