iguanas have been a fad pet for years. Due to their low cost and small size, iguanas are often purchased by individuals who lack the knowledge and resources to properly care for them. Unfortunately, once these reptiles become too large or expensive to care for, they are often abandoned or released into the wild. Iguanas are able to thrive in South Florida's subtropical climate. There are now thousands of the green lizards throughout south
Florida. These feral populations present unwelcome challenges for homeowners and as a result the reptiles are often cruelly mistreated.
• Green iguanas can grow to six feet in length and live for more than 15 years.
• Iguanas are excellent
• Iguanas communicate
through head bobs and other body language.
most people find these animals fascinating, iguanas do sometimes
create challenges for Florida residents. The most frequent complaint
is that they eat ornamental plants, such as orchids or hibiscus flowers.
Iguanas can also cause problems when they dig holes for nesting.
Misinformation about Green iguanas.
• Danger to people or companion animals. Green iguanas normally avoid people, although as with most animals, iguanas will defend themselves if threatened or cornered.
• Salmonella. Iguanas do carry salmonella bacteria in their intestines and feces, but salmonella-poisoning is only a concern if you handle the animals (and then touch your mouth). If an iguana defecates in your pool, the chlorine will most likely kill the bacteria.
• Impact on the ecosystem. There is little evidence that Green iguanas pose a threat to native lizards or other wildlife, or negatively impact native plants. Green iguanas are primarily herbivorous and some of their favorite foods, such as hibiscus, are themselves "non-native."
iguanas are not native to the United States, but they have thrived
in Florida for many years and are most likely here to stay. Although
Green iguanas—as with all wildlife—can sometimes pose
unwelcome challenges, there are humane methods of discouraging
iguanas from becoming a nuisance.
• Do not feed iguanas. Feeding only encourages
animals to stick around.
• Make your property less iguana-friendly
by planting landscaping that iguanas will not eat such as citrus,
crotons or any tough, thick leaved plant.
• Plants can be protected using chicken
wire. To discourage iguanas from climbing in trees, wrap thin
sheets of metal, such as aluminum flashing, around the base of
• Iguana Repellent. You may have luck with
a spray mixture—made from blended garlic cloves and hot
peppers—that deters iguanas from eating plants.
Trapping. In Florida it is illegal to trap and
then relocate iguanas. Trappers hired to “solve” a
problem involving iguanas almost always will kill the animals.
Trappers often use cruel snares to capture iguanas.
• Never buy an iguana from a pet store.
Instead, adopt one from a herpetological society or wildlife
rescue group, such as The
Wildlife Care Center in Fort Lauderdale. Note: Iguanas
are not easy to care for. They require a very specific environment
• Today, iguanas can be purchased for
as little as $10, making them popular impulse purchases at pet
stores. Captive iguanas often do not receive proper care and die
shortly after their purchase. Others are irresponsibly released
into the wild. The pet industry is ultimately responsible for
the large numbers of iguanas in Florida.Contact
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and
urge them to take steps to ban or restrict the sale of iguanas
in Florida. Contact the FWC through their website: www.MyFWC.com/Contact
• At PETCO stores in South Florida, young iguanas can be purchased for less than $20. (PetSmart, its superstore competitor, does not sell iguanas.) As one of Florida's leading retailers of pet products, PETCO is in a position to positively impact the growing problem of feral iguanas. Ask PETCO to discontinue the sale of iguanas at its stores in South Florida. Contact:
Jim Myers, CEO
9125 Rehco Road
San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: (888) 824-7257
Online comment form.
Please be polite when writing. PETCO is well-known for its efforts to address the dog and cat overpopulation problem by partnering with local shelters. In addition, in response to concerns raised by animal advocates, PETCO ended the sale of large birds rabbits.
Download and distribute ARFF's iguana brochure (click
here). Contact ARFF for free hard copies of the brochure.
• In October 2008, Broward County commissioners passed a resolution
requesting that the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
add green iguanas to the list of "reptiles of concern."
Reptiles on this list— such as pythons or anacondas—
require a $100 permit to purchase. The resolution also urged the
FWC to take measures to "control the possession, distribution,
release and propagation of iguanas throughout the state."
Palm Beach County, Monroe County and the cities of Cape Coral
and Pompano Beach have approved similar resolutions.
FWC has expressed skepticism that anything can be done to decrease
the numbers of iguanas already established in the wild. Although
we agree that iguanas are likely here to stay, we also feel that
problems can always get worse. Making it more complicated and
expensive to obtain iguanas would stop impulse purchases and discourage
their sale at pet stores. The new designation would hopefully
cut down on the number of former "pets" who are dumped
into the wild. Have iguanas been a subject of nuisance complaints
in your community? Please ask your city or county commission
to pass a resolution urging the Florida Fish & Wildlife
Conservation Commission to designate green iguanas as "reptiles
of concern." Contact ARFF; we can help.
• Support ARFF. One of ARFF’s
legislative priorities is enactment of a ban on the breeding,
sale and private possession of dangerous exotic animals—to
protect people, animals and the environment.