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Are Florida Iguanas Disappearing?

Updated on July 1, 2017
Lily Rose profile image

Punctuation & grammer are pet peeves of mine and I truly love to help others by sharing my knowledge of this and other interesting topics.

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)

This is one of the bigger ones.
This is one of the bigger ones.
This one is a bit smaller.
This one is a bit smaller.

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!

See Big Momma on the step below keeping a watchful eye?
See Big Momma on the step below keeping a watchful eye?

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 Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Iguanas love to climb trees and hang out on the branches.Watch out below, though-if the temperature drops below 40 degrees they'll fall right out of the tree!
Iguanas love to climb trees and hang out on the branches.
Iguanas love to climb trees and hang out on the branches.
Watch out below, though-if the temperature drops below 40 degrees they'll fall right out of the tree!
Watch out below, though-if the temperature drops below 40 degrees they'll fall right out of the tree!

Kamikaze Iguanas

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.

Only in Florida!
Only in Florida!

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    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      I don't know about "brilliant", but thanks!! I've seen a couple of inguanas here and there but they are very few and far between still...

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and thanks for sharing.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I love this hub - love how you personalized it. And what a great cartoon below - Thank you.

      My son and DIL have a bearded dragon and I just like lizards and want them in my neighborhood. They must be there for a reason.

    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      I just had to! Thanks for stopping by, Docmo!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Great hub. I feel sorry for those guys as the temperature dropped .. it is nice to know there are still some around. They are amazing creatures with their unique look of an ancient dragon - or as you say like a remnant of pre-history - I like 'em ( not to eat, of course) ! Thanks for shouting out for the little guys.

    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      Ick! I just can't imagine eating iguana!

      Thanks for your comment, PR Morgan.

    • PR Morgan profile image

      PR Morgan 6 years ago from Sarasota Florida

      Great hub...I like iguanas too but I guess too many of anything gets to be a nuisance...I was thinking they should have tries serving grilled iguanas on Fort Myers Beach to get the tourists excited!

    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      You know, James, I grew up here and don't remember seeing any iguanas growing up. Then I moved away for 11 years and came back - now I see them everywhere!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      I lived in Florida 18 years and never saw an Iguana. I sure saw a lot of lizards. I liked them because they eat bugs. I was in Orlando for the most part, though I also lived in the Keys, Fort Lauderdale, and Clearwater for a year each. I enjoyed your fine article. I'm sorry to read the Iguanas have died off.

    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      A few years ago there were tons just north of the keys (where I live) too - but the 2009-10 winter was record-breaking in all of So Florida so I'm sure even the population in the keys was greatly diminished - it was seriously something that even natives never saw happen! The kamikaze iguanas, that is!

    • kiwi91 profile image

      kiwi91 6 years ago from USA

      They had plenty of them down in the Florida Keys a few years back when I was there. I doubt the temperature dipped that low down there, so their population is probably still thriving/growing. Parts of southern Florida are a few hundred miles shy of having the right temperatures all year round EVERY year for them to survive. Great hub!

    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      Eat them?!? Quite unfortunate AND rather disgusting - my opinion, at least! Thanks for your comment, CARIBQUEEN.

    • CARIBQUEEN profile image

      CARIBQUEEN 6 years ago

      Iguanas are fascinating creatures and they are not really destructive. Their species are dwindling and I think it is because some people eat them as a delicacy, which is quite unfortunate. Good hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for this lovely story.

    • emilybee profile image

      emilybee 6 years ago

      Cool hub! Very interesting on Iguanas.

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image

      SUSIE DUZY 6 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      There are an abundance in the islands. Recently went to St. Thomas, they are everywhere.

    • drbillfannin profile image

      drbillfannin 6 years ago from Atlanta

      I love iguanas. I used to own one, but it got so large I had to let it go. It probably died a long time ago. Lots of animals have been dying off because of the cold or other unknown reasons. The natural cycles of the sun and earth cause climate change. So much for global warming. Of course, we could see a hot summer that kills more animals. Things like this should make us appreciate how fragile life is. Instead of going crazy over climate change and trying to "fix" things that we may or may not have caused, people should thank God for life and fauna and flora that he gave us. We should do our best to please God, and He will take care of us and his creation.

      Thanks for a great hub.

    • Lily Rose profile image
      Author

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks for your comment, Manny. Many people consider them pests since they do eat a lot of vegetation and they are happy to see the numbers of them down. I find them fascinating to watch and miss seeing them on my deck. I only ever saw them eating one particular plant, so they weren't very destructive to our yard - I guess we were one of the lucky ones! I'm sure the numbers will begin to multiply and they'll be back to bothering everyone once again in the very near future...

      By the way, after looking at a couple of your hubs, I'm embarassed by my pictures here - they were taken with my old camera so not very good! I now have a very good camera but I'm having a hard time getting used to carrying it with me because it's so big compared to my point-and-shoot!

    • mannyrolando profile image

      mannyrolando 6 years ago

      Excellent hub! I live near a lake in South Florida and I noticed the same thing and I also heard it on the news. I actually would see the dead ones in the water, very sad! What I also heard was that when they go into the state of hibernation they fall into the water from the trees and drown... in any case very, very sad! I hope that there a few left somewhere and begin to reproduce... unfortunately it may not be anytime soon since we have had such cold temperatures this winter here in South Florida.