BY MARCY SHORTUSE - A slightly lower millage rate for iguana trapping is a bonus that taxpayers might be facing in the new fiscal year, but the program will still essentially be run the same way it has for the last few years.
With trapper George Cera at the helm, the cost of the program in the new fiscal year will be $95,200. The millage rate will tentatively decrease from .307 to .289, by approximately 6%.
That number, however, depends on property values in the future.
The board also granted Cera 40 hours of work during his “off-season” time (which is from November 15 to February 15). Cera told the board he received phone calls from property owners during that time period, which gave the board reason to grant the re-arrangement of hours. The hours will come out of his regular seasonal work time.
In looking at this year’s iguana numbers, board member John Shaw said he was impressed.
“It looks like the adult iguana population on the island is down by about 90%,” he said. Cera said that part of the reason his hours were lower this year was because of a lack of animals that he could hunt.
“There are still a lot of property owners that won’t allow me access to their land,” he said. “Those are the places now where pockets of iguanas are living. You don’t see many of them in the high-traffic areas, but no-access areas and people’s yards are where they are.”
Cera also reported that this was the first year he was allowed on Three Sisters’ Island to hunt.
“It’s easier to get them from the water when they’re sunning in the rip-rap,” he said. “They can hear me coming from a mile away on the land. I am also seeing a larger amount of animals that seem to be filtering into Boca Grande Isles from Three Sisters, so the jet ski will help with that.”
Cera mentioned to the board that the State was interested in re-introducing five-lined skinks to Gasparilla Island, and had spoken with him about the project. If he were to do it, he said, he would be doing it on his own time.
Cera explained that the skinks complete with juvenile iguanas for food sources, and that they could possibly help in cutting the ctenosaur population even more. Unfortunately, it was the iguana that made the five-lined skink extinct on the island in the first place, and board chairman Ron Gutman addressed that issue.
“I think it might be better at this time to leave well enough alone,” he said. “This isn’t an easily-saleable thing to do. If we decide to re-introduce another type of lizard now, when we’re getting the iguana population under control, I’m afraid I’m going to be getting some phone calls. Besides, it sounds like we’re just providing iguanas with another food source.”
Cera agreed to hold off on the skink project for now.
In other iguana-related news, new board member Kay Wagner was introduced to the board, and Dick Ryan announced he would be leaving the board as he is moving off-island. His replacement has not yet been named, pending approval from county commissioners.
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