Iguanas dropping from trees in South Florida; cold snap has potential to kill them off

Photo © Robert E. Klein / AP
Photo © Robert E. Klein / AP

It’s freezing outside. The weather up north is horrendous with temperatures dipping way below zero. But the cold spell is affecting South Florida too.

Down here we’ll have some days that are chilly, when the weather will dip down into the fifties. For me that’s not cold because I grew up in Southern Virginia. I find it amusing when my neighbors pull out their parkas. We joke about it, all in good fun.

But lately it’s been colder than normal for our area, especially at night. This week the temps hit the high twenties and low thirties. Next week looks like much of the same. It has been so cold in fact that the iguanas are falling out of the trees – literally. When the temperature hits the forties, as it has this week, these scaly reptiles go into such a deep sleep they lose their grip on the tree and fall to the ground.

Ron Magill, communications director for Miami Metrozoo said:

“The worst part of the cold comes in the evening, and they literally just shut off Their bodies shut off and they lose their grip on the tree, and they start falling.”

According to Dana Alger, Collier County Domestic Animal Services:

“iguana reports traditionally rise when temperatures drop, as the reptiles seek to warm themselves on asphalt surfaces such as sidewalks, roads and driveways.”

Yes, we have an overpopulation of the creatures due to people releasing them into the streets when they grew to large to keep at home. Iguanas can only sustain cold temps for four to ten hours and then they have to wake up. If the temperatures stay like this and the cold snap continues much longer, many of them will sleep on in death.

Kenneth Krysko, a herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History,  thinks this is a good thing:

The [iguana] populations have expanded so drastically [that] when we do experience a really good cold snap, it will kill off a lot of them, they’re not native, and they’re considered a nuisance.”

So if you live down here in South Florida and wake up to find Iggy sunbathing on your sidewalk, he’s just trying to warm up. Just leave him alone and he’ll move back into the trees when he’s warm enough.