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Florida Moves to Control Booming Iguana Population

  • Associated Press

Trapper Brian Wood holds an iguana he caught behind a condominium in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., Feb. 9, 2017.

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 to 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 .

A green iguana checks out the flowers on a Bougainvillea plant, Dec. 7, 2016, in Hollywood, Fla. The invasive reptiles eat mostly leaves, flowers and fruit, and they are prolific in South Florida.
A green iguana checks out the flowers on a Bougainvillea plant, Dec. 7, 2016, in Hollywood, Fla. The invasive reptiles eat mostly leaves, flowers and fruit, and they are prolific in South Florida.

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

Iguanas have been damaging roads and showing up in shopping malls, and they 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.

Trapper Brian Wood uses a fishing pole with a wire attached to snare an iguana behind a condominium in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., Feb. 9, 2017. Perched in trees and scampering down sidewalks, green iguanas are so common across area suburbs that many see them as reptilian squirrels instead of exotic invaders.
Trapper Brian Wood uses a fishing pole with a wire attached to snare an iguana behind a condominium in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., Feb. 9, 2017. Perched in trees and scampering down sidewalks, green iguanas are so common across area suburbs that many see them as reptilian squirrels instead of exotic invaders.

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.

Trapper Brian Wood talks with Janet Sarno, board chairwoman at King’s Point Imperial Condo, in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., about her iguana problem, Feb. 9, 2017. Sarno hired Wood because the number of iguanas, big adults and bright green babies, hanging around the building’s pool has been growing despite residents’ attempts to chase them away or block their entry.
Trapper Brian Wood talks with Janet Sarno, board chairwoman at King’s Point Imperial Condo, in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., about her iguana problem, Feb. 9, 2017. Sarno hired Wood because the number of iguanas, big adults and bright green babies, hanging around the building’s pool has been growing despite residents’ attempts to chase them away or block their entry.

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 said. "They're literally a green plague."

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