Invasive green iguanas thriving in South Florida, raising concerns

COOPER CITY, FLA. (WSVN) - South Florida’s green iguana population continues to increase, and now biologists and residents are raising concerns about what some are calling “the green plague.”

While hundreds of thousands of the unwanted scaly visitors enjoy the Florida sun, residents are comparing their takeover to “Jurassic Park.”

“They’ll go running, and you see little — what looks like little dinosaurs running away from you,” said Dawn Braeseke, general manager of the Cooper Colony Golf Course in Cooper City.

Braeseke said she spends hundreds of dollars a year trying to control the herds of invasive iguanas littering her property.

“When you see hundreds a day, as you’re driving around our golf course, yeah, that’s just not fun anymore,” she said.

Green iguanas are not native to Florida. Scientists said were first sold and shipped as pets from Central and South America.

Their presence has become a big business for professional trappers.

“We’ve had instances where we’ve removed them off of people’s barrel tile roofs. They were in their attics,” said Perry Colato, co-owner of Red Line Iguana Removal. “We get calls frequently for them falling into people’s toilets, digging underneath a home’s foundation, defecating by a pool. I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, and I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Trappers use equipment like snares to remove up to 100 iguanas per day.

Biologists said the Florida heat provides the perfect conditions for the iguanas to thrive and breed.

“Because we have not had as cold events, as in 2010, [they’re happening] on a less frequent basis, we’re starting to see more and more iguanas pop up, because they don’t have that pushback of cold weather to kind of kill off the population,” said Matthew Metcalf, a biologist at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is encouraging residents to kill the green iguanas on their properties whenever possible, since it’s illegal for homeowners to let them go.

For more information on Redline Iguana Removal, click here.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.