Visitors to South Florida might be forgiven for thinking that iguanas are native species, since they seem to be EVERYWHERE – sunning themselves along roadsides and waterways, and lounging on rooftops or in trees. Reptile lovers are often fascinated, but South Florida gardeners, homeowners, and wildlife enthusiasts usually find themselves groaning in frustration. Iguanas may look interesting, but the fact is that they are non-native pests whose presence is detrimental to our property and our native wildlife.
Why Are Iguanas Considered Pests?
Iguanas are an invasive species in Florida, brought over as pets beginning in the 1960s. Since then, as iguanas have escaped from or been abandoned by their owners, the feral iguana population in South Florida has exploded. Because South Florida has a similar climate to the iguana’s native regions in South and Central America, iguanas released into the wild thrive here.
Iguanas are voracious herbivores whose favorite plants just happen to be ones favored by Florida gardeners, including hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids and impatiens. Landscapers spend thousands of dollars and hours in labor creating beautiful South Florida gardens, only to find their time and money going straight into the belly of a hungry iguana (or iguanas). If an iguana finds your home particularly attractive, it may decide to nest in your yard, tearing up your lawn and weakening your home’s foundation as it creates burrows for its eggs. Besides being unsightly, these burrows can be quite deep, creating a hazard for children and pets.
Iguanas enjoy hanging out in trees and by water, which results in iguana poop covering your car, driveway, or deck. This is unsanitary, difficult to scrape off, and corrosive enough that it might damage your paint job. Iguanas also carry salmonella, which can be transmitted to humans through contact with the reptiles or their feces.
How do I Keep Iguanas Out of My Yard?
The best way of keeping iguanas out of your yard is by creating an environment which they find unattractive. Professionals who specialize in iguana control can help “iguana-proof” your yard with a variety of methods, including special wraps for trees and dock pilings, judicious pruning of branches and shrubs around your home, iguana-proof fencing around the perimeter of your property, and sea barriers along waterways to prevent an aquatic invasion. You can also replace plants that iguanas feed on with less appetizing ones such as chenille, croton, silver buttonwood, milkweed, and citrus trees, or consider raised beds covered with chicken wire or netting to protect your vegetables and flowers.
How Do I Remove Iguanas From My Property?
Iguanas already on your property need to be caught and removed, and any burrows need to be filled in. Use rocks or gravel to fill the holes, since iguanas will dig out any dirt used to fill the area. Humane live traps are available to capture iguanas, but Florida law does not permit the sale or relocation of iguanas. Therefore catching an iguana and then dumping it in the Everglades (or giving it to your reptile-loving friend) is not an option. The best course of action, in this case, is to contact a licensed iguana removal service. Professionals trained in the removal of iguanas will evaluate your property and develop a plan to humanely remove iguanas from your property and prevent them from returning.