■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
The media recently blasted an announcement regarding iguanas on social media that made some pretty big waves. The headlines everywhere read that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) had called for residents to kill iguanas on their property, and that they had no problem with it. If you’re on social media, the stories traveled far and wide. A few days later, the first news report of an “iguana hunter” shooting another man accidentally surfaced.
I have questions.
First, I get every FWC press release that is issued, and I never got a recent one about the FWC calling for private residents to go forth in bloodlust and bring them iguana heads on a platter. I went through all my emails, I went through the website (which has been redone and, neglectfully or intentionally, they left out the category they used to have for press-related questions). I’m still waiting on a call back from the FWC media rep from our region (a response should come in the next month or two; I will be patient) to see if a specific release was issued.
That aside, I have to mention that all the stories that have been flying around specifically mention green iguanas and how they are a blight on sidewalks, plants, home roofs and gutters, and how they poop in people’s pools.
In truth, green iguanas are far less damaging to our ecosystem than our island’s black spinytail iguanas are. While greens are eating hibiscus and burrowing under sidewalks, spinytails are wiping out levels of the ecosystem – from invading birds’ nests to eating indigenous anoles and sea turtle eggs. Yet on the FWC web- site, when you search “iguanas” and click on “green iguanas,” you get this: “This species is not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty law. Homeowners do not need a permit to kill iguanas on their own property, and the FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible. Iguanas can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in south Florida.”
When you go to the black spineytail iguana page, it makes no mention of killing them at all. There is barely any information at all.
Aside from all of that, let’s say for the sake of argument that they are generalizing on the green iguana page, and that it’s all right to kill ALL iguanas, all the time. One astute reader sent me a rebuttal to the last iguana article I wrote, and called me out on saying residents aren’t encouraged to shoot lizards on their property. They cited a Lee County code that reads, “Section 15-10 (d) of the Lee County Code which established the Wildlife Sanctuary specifically exempts Black Spiny Iguanas from the shooting restrictions: “Prohibition. It shall be a violation of this section for any person, organization, society, association, corporation or any agency or representative thereof, directly or indirectly to hunt, take, or otherwise disturb any bird, wildlife or wildlife habitat, EXCEPT for Ctenosaura similes, (black spiny iguanas), from the area described as the Lee County Gasparilla Island Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary, unless such taking, hunting and/or disturbance has been previously specifically authorized by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners.”
So let’s say we’re going to kill an iguana in our yard. How shall we do it? The FWC is remiss in mentioning that information, after all, so we’re just winging it. Should we use the old “trap-and-drown” or “trap-and-freeze” methods, or does that go against anti-cruelty laws?
If we put out poison, does that stop the neighbor’s dog or local wildlife from coming over and ingesting that poison? If we decide to shoot the lizard, what type of gun should we use, and what kind of shot?
BB guns might work for little lizards at close range, but you need rat shot in a .22 to make a clean kill with most of our iguanas.
In Broward County, biologists and FWC researchers are killing iguanas with “blunt force trauma” (bashing them on the head) or by decapitating them with a knife. Their iguanas are primarily greens as well, and perhaps their iguanas sit still a little better than ours do … and claw and bite a little less.
If I get an answer back from the FWC, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, put lots of thought into your next iguana recon mission. It could be your grandchild who eats that poison, and there could always be a person on the other side of that hedgerow, or a boater on the other side of the waterfront rip rap.
Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.