Skip to main content

Iguana removal takes chummy approach

March 21, 2024
By Anna Ridilla

There is officially a new person to call on-island for iguana removal, with former iguana hunter, George Cera, named as the secondary vendor. 

The new iguana hunter in town, Brian Ambrose, is a technician for Blue Iguana Pest Control Inc., which has been around for 15 years. The company was named primary vendor for “population control services for black spiny-tailed iguanas” on Gasparilla Island at a December 5, 2023 Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting. 

“During the total time I’ve been on the island – around 19 days – I’ve gotten 223 iguanas,” Ambrose said. 

Ambrose takes care of basic iguana removal. Usually, he is called to remove iguanas that have tunneled under a porch or house or are eating a resident’s plants, he said. He has also removed them from roadways. 

Residents can call (855) 525-5656 to request a removal, during which they will also have to give Ambrose permission to go on their property. The company starts with a two-week period for the technician to remove the iguana, after which the timeline may be extended if it hasn’t been successful, said Tom Portuallo, owner and founder of Blue Iguana.

The county contract includes “appropriate methods of capture, removal, euthanasia and disposal, on an as-needed basis, for an initial term of one year.” Ambrose will have a period of about three months to take off during the winter season when iguanas hibernate, he said.

Cera, who is well-known statewide for his work and approach, is listed in the contract as secondary vendor, so while he is not officially retired, he is not the first person to call for iguana removal anymore. 

“Pretty much the county did that as a safety net,” Cera said. “If for any reason the other people weren’t able to perform.”

People still call Cera for iguana-related problems, but when this happens, he sends them over to Blue Iguana, he said. 

Ambrose typically goes to the property twice in order to locate the iguana, he said. Once he has located it, he shoots it with a pellet gun before bagging it and removing it to be processed into chum for fishermen through Blue Iguana’s sister company, Iguana Chum.

He will occasionally use traps if someone doesn’t want him shooting on their property, although nobody on the island has had a problem with this thus far, he said. 

Ambrose will also use a trap if he can’t locate the iguana during his trips to the property, or if residents request he set one. He has set three traps in his nearly three weeks working on Gasparilla, and they tend to work quite well, he added. His traps themselves consist of a two-by-one-foot cage with a pressure switch that knocks a door closed when activated. 

Sometimes residents have their own traps, but they can still call Blue Iguana Pest Control to remove the animal once it’s trapped. The Florida state law specifies that iguanas can be held in these cages for no more than 24 hours, so if a homeowner traps one, it is important to call the company as soon as possible so it can be removed within the 24-hour period, Portuallo said.

The Gasparilla streetlight MSBU, sometimes referred to as the “Iguana Board,” provides the county with an estimated budget for invasive exotic animal control for the island. The current three sitting members of the board are Skip Branin, Kenneth Richardson and John Gravanda. Their terms expire in March 2025. 

On the Charlotte County end of the island, the USDA is the iguana removal contractor for the local Municipal Service Benefit Unit. The arrangement began in 2008. Very often you will see a USDA truck on the causeway, where the iguanas are trapped and removed. Residents can fill out a form with the officer that will allow him to trap on your property. That removal effort is part of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Call (855) 525-5656 to request an iguana removal in Lee County. Visit for more information on streetlight units.