Giant iguanas, that is.

Florida’s Next Big Threat Is Iguanas
Credit: Hari/Getty Images

Florida is known as the land of orange groves, beaches, manatees, Miami Vice, key lime pie, Golden Girls, and mermaids. Now, we may have to add green iguanas to the list. Thanks to Florida's increasingly hot climate, including a warm winter and record-breaking summer heat, green iguanas are thriving in the Sunshine State and they aren't supposed to be there.

The invasive species has slowly been taking over the area, menacing local flora and causing property damage. More than 3,000 green iguanas have been spotted in southern Florida since the Center for Invasive Species at the University of Georgia started tracking sightings in 2005, according to ABC News.

The green iguanas can grow up to five feet long and weigh up to 17 pounds, although there are reports of some much bigger versions of the lizards lurking around. They have become such a problem in parts of southern Florida that now wildlife officials are encouraging homeowners to kill the reptiles (humanely, of course).

"The FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible," the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently wrote on its website. "Iguanas can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in south Florida."

The extreme measure is due to the fact that the reptiles are damaging property. "Green iguanas can cause damage to residential and commercial landscape vegetation, and are often considered a nuisance by property owners," the FWC wrote in a notice posted to its website. "Some green iguanas cause damage to infrastructure by digging burrows that erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, seawalls, berms and canal banks." In addition to ruining the landscaping and damaging property, the reptiles can also spread Salmonella.

While the reptiles are native to Central America, parts of South America and some islands in the eastern Caribbean, thanks to climate change they are making their way up north to Florida. One expert who spoke to the Washington Post about Florida's iguana problem, said that "in the last five or 10 years, [he has] seen the population literally explode."

That could be a problem. Grand Cayman island went from having no green iguanas in 2000 to having an estimated 1.6 million in 2018, and saw no choice but to launch a large-scale cull last fall, that resulted in the death of nearly 800,000 iguanas.

While Florida's officials may want homeowners to humanely take out iguanas when they see them, that is not a job for everyone. Luckily, as quickly as the iguanas have popped up, so have iguana removal companies. These days there are plenty of professional trapping companies in Southern Floriday that can take care of the iguana problem for you.

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