■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
Iguana trapper George Cera will be an even more common sight around town next year, as Lee County has extended his contract to include the winter months. The contract until now was for nine months.
“I’m just glad I can work those other months,” Cera said. “There were so many times the weather was nice and they were out, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Lee County also amended Cera’s contract by creating a special clause contract so that Cera can respond to emergency calls during off hours.
New permission slips need to be signed by all Boca Grande/Lee County residents who agree to allow Cera on their property to hunt the wily beasts. Once signed, the forms will be good until the property is sold.
“Lee County made it specifically clear that I was not to go on anyone’s property unless the owner had signed a form,” Cera said.
Forms are available at the Boca Grande Community Center, Lee County Parks & Rec office. You have to fill out a new form this year in order to have iguana eradication services on your property. Cera believes he has eliminated more than 30,000 iguanas from the island since he started in February, 2006.
Within the first two years of the program, it is estimated that George eradicated more than 16,000 iguanas from the Lee County side of Gasparilla Island. He currently averages around 2,000 iguanas a year. Cera said it had been proven that the iguanas had been eating baby gopher tortoises and eggs, as well as anoles, small birds and bird eggs.
Through the years Cera has also watched the island’s bird population increase to a somewhat more normal number. Prior to the eradication, many indigenous birds were facing a serious decline. Cera explained that most of the food that the larger prey birds used to eat on the island was eaten instead by the iguanas.
The black spiny-tailed iguana is considered an invasive species, because it is not native to the Florida ecosystem. Originally from Mexico, the iguana is believed to cause both environmental and economic harm outside of its native ecosystem.
The lizards are omnivorous and can eat pretty much anything if their favorite foods are gone. Berries, flowers, even “human food” picnic leftovers have been found in iguana stomach contents.
Iguana sightings should all go to Boca Grande Lizard Control on Facebook, or drop a note off at the Boca Grande Community Center with Joe or David.
You can also mail Cera at PO Box 2238, Boca Grande, FL. 33921.