Ugly truth: Winter freeze decimates iguana population on Marco Island

— Reviled by some because they’re not fussy where they leave their toxic droppings, but revered by others because of their exotic nature and looks, iguanas appear to have taken a big population hit during this past winter’s extended freeze.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if 50 percent of them are not around any more,” said trapper Chris Harlow, who for the past year has contracted with the city of Marco Island to control the non-native reptiles.

“They generally like being in trees, and when it’s cold they basically just go to sleep, and either die on the branches or fall dead out of the trees,” Harlow said.

Breeding season is imminent, however, and some time after the females’ eggs hatch in July, there should be some indication of survival rates, he said.

Females usually lay about 50 to 80 eggs at a time, and 80 percent of those usually hatch.

One uncertainty in the equation, Harlow added, is that heat-loving iguanas have become more crafty and wily as they’ve adapted to the shifting Southwest Florida weather patterns.

“Some go underground ... they’ve adapted to the Marco lifestyle,” Harlow said. “They also burrow under seawalls, which is why you see holes around them.”

Harlow said iguanas are fairly widespread throughout the area, including Sanibel Island, Cape Coral and Boca Grande at the northern Lee County line, but that he hasn’t been called for any controlling in Naples.

Green iguana

Green iguana

The city of Naples has no control program, city Natural Resources Manager Mike Bauer confirmed.

“We do get one or two complaints a year, but it’s rare,” Bauer said. “They live around lakes and do feed on tortoise eggs and lizards, so we’re not very happy with them. They’re around, but we’re not overrun.”

Harlow said Marco is the newest island in the area to experience iguana problems, with the other islands mentioned having a head start of about a decade.

Black spiny tailed iguana

Black spiny tailed iguana

In his year servicing Marco so far, he’s trapped about 600 iguanas, which are then humanely euthanized using a cold technique.

This fits the law, because species deemed exotic aren’t allowed to be relocated anywhere in the wild.

Marco Island city environmental specialist Nancy Richie said the non-native species compete with limited populations of burrowing owls, shore birds, gopher tortoises and sea turtles.

Harlow calls the ones downed by the cold weather “casualties,” Richie said, “and lately he’s only been catching one or two per trip.”

She said the trapper is paid about $300 for each weekly outing, and that this might become monthly because of the population decline.

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 6

MindonMarco writes:

Decimate: 1) To kill one of every ten of any population. 2) Destroying or killing a large part of the population.

Shall I go on? I think the title of the article is more than appropriate.

Consistantly negative people suck.

LadueVGilleo writes:

Here we have another comment from Mr. Sensitivity himself, rolomokat. Take a moment and click on his name, and read all his “contributions” to this site. Recently, this individual posted a blatant racist remark that had to be removed by Marco News staff: this was not the first time staff had to remove his posts. rolomokat continuously posts jokes and insulting comments about deceased Marco Island civic leaders, and once posted a joke about an individual who past away while golfing on one of the local courses. And of course he attacks other individuals who post comments on this site, just like he will attack me once his mother reads this to him. Here is yet another individual who has made a conscious decision to post comments on this site that only serve to hurt or bully people, like any spineless ignorant jerk who does this for his own infantile enjoyment. Remember, reading a comment submitted by rolomokat will insult your common sense like a foul and pestilent congregation of odors will insult your nose.

34145 writes:

Considering the ZERO iguana sightings on Granada, I'm thinking the Hunter could work every other month and save the Taxpayers a dollar or two.

ajm3s writes:

Rolokomat may need a "man" hug and a pet for companionship. But free speech is free speech.

LOL

maharg writes:

Free speech should not be ANONYMOUS speech.

ajm3s writes:

This is a blog that includes all comments within the boundaries that are set by the host.

In the spirit of removing anonymity in this blog.

Sincerely,
Publius

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features