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State Moves To Control Booming, Invasive Iguanas

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

With burrowing iguanas showing up in people's toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state's booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has hired a trapper to try and control the iguana population on public land in the Florida Keys. It is also holding workshops to teach homeowners how to trap and ward off the reptiles, The Miami Herald reports.

While the iguanas have been in Florida since the 1960s, FWC exotic species coordinator Kristin Sommers says there has been a noted increase in "human conflicts."

Iguanas have been damaging roads, showing up in shopping malls and are a common sight on golf courses.

In the Keys, the animals damage natural areas, and consume plants important to dwindling species like butterflies. They also threatened a new billion-dollar sewage line.

Iguanas also can spread salmonella by defecating in people's swimming pools.

Training people to help catch the pesky lizards is an important part of the state's effort.

“FWC can't go out and remove everybody's iguanas. That's just not possible,” Sommers told the newspaper.

The lizard boom has also created a new industry for people who trap them.

Tom Portuallo started such a business in Broward County after seeing a group of iguanas take over a friend's pool.

He now has customers throughout South Florida.

Wildlife biologist Joe Wasilewski told the newspaper that Florida wants to nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of control as it is on many Caribbean islands.

He said he was hired to deal with an iguana problem at a high-end resort in the Bahamas.

“The numbers just exploded to where you drive a golf cart and there's waves of green iguanas going into the forest,” he says. “They're literally a green plague.”