iguanaGreen 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.

Did you know?
• Green iguanas can grow to six feet in length and live for more than 15 years.
• Iguanas are excellent swimmers.
• Iguanas communicate through head bobs and other body language.

Although 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."

Green 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 trees.
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.

You Can Help
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 and diet.

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

Petco logo 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.

The 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.


1431 N. Federal Highway Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304 (954) 727-ARFF