Cold front brings down iguanas from trees across South Florida

(WSVN) - Just as forecasters predicted, temperatures were not the only thing falling with the cold front on Wednesday.

Along with a front that plunged temperatures into the 30s and 40s across the state, the National Weather Service also warned South Floridians to look out for falling iguanas.

“Iguanas are cold blooded. They slow down or become immobile when temps drop into the 40s,” the NWS said in a tweet. “They may fall from trees, but they are not dead.”

The iguanas will typically perk back up once the temperature rises again, noted officials.

7News cameras captured a large dormant iguana on a sidewalk along 106th Terrace and Johnson Street in Pembroke Pines, Wednesday morning.

Thomas Portuallo, the owner of Iguana Control Inc., said his company has received a lot of calls from people calling about the cold-blooded reptiles.

“This is very rare, what’s happened this past week, meaning the temp falling somewhere around 30s,” Portuallo said. “Then, of course, we’re getting a lot of calls both from our clients saying, ‘so many fell out of my tree, come get them,’ or from people just trying to remove them.”

In Hollywood, a stunned iguana could be seen slowly starting to move again as the afternoon sun warms it up.

“Iguanas do not create heat,” Portuallo said. “They’re reptiles. Cold blooded is the generic street term. Anywhere below 50 is where they become challenged. That’s where their health is at risk.”

Videos and photos posted on social media showed countless immobile iguanas in different cities.

Portuallo added that iguanas have sharp claws, and while they will not bite, the reptiles could wake up and claw a person, creating an open wound.

“In this type of situation, for the most part, I say unless you’re having a problem with iguanas — prior to today, they were not an issue to you, well, then leave the iguana alone,” Portuallo said.

However, some people were brave enough to pick the reptiles up and hold them in their arms.

“They look threatening, but in this state, you can pick them up,” Portuallo said. “You really shouldn’t dispose them at this point yet. Like, you shouldn’t drop them in water because that’s cruelty-to-animal treatment. You should call a contractor to come and remove it. If you have a pair of gloves on, then, you can pick up the iguana, especially in this state. It is very lethargic. To begin with, iguanas are herbivores, so for the most part physiologically, they’re not designed to attack.”

One person even covered up an iguana in a blanket and gave it a hat.

“Not too cold yet, so he’s still doing all right,” said Blake Wilkinson, an iguana trapper. “He’s a little stiff. Definitely, there were residents waking up to them next to their pool or kind of falling on the ground stiff.”

Video captured an iguana flipping over from laying on its back and moving normal once again.

If temperatures stay below 45 degrees for over eight hours, however, the iguanas may not survive. The temperatures from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning were not cold enough to kill many of the iguanas.

“If you do happen to come across one, if it’s frozen, normally we’ve seen they’re not actually dead. It may take a couple nights like this for them to die,” said Wilkinson.

Green iguanas are an invasive species in Florida known for eating through landscaping and digging burrows that undermine infrastructure.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty laws. They can be humanely killed on private property year-round with landowner permission.

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