What should I do with a frozen iguana? Managing Reptile Rain in Florida

Iguanas falling from the sky may seem like an irrational fear in a country where these animals aren’t native, but for Florida residents, “falling iguanas” have become as reliable a seasonal phenomenon as snow and rain. As an invasive species, green iguanas have made the US state their home and while their numbers continue to thrive, they are still vulnerable to changes in the temperature of their new home.

Like all cold-blooded reptiles, iguanas are heat-loving, so the Floridian winter hurts them, causing their blood to stop moving properly around their body, become immobile and fall from any trees in which they find themselves. Bad news for the reptile, of course, but what the hell do you do if you find your car covered in comatose reptiles?

Florida residents are getting more and more used to falling iguanas, but, as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) knows all too well, not everyone knows what to do with a frozen iguana.

“Do not bring wild green iguanas into your home or car,” says the FFWCC. Yes, spare a thought for the many lost Good Samaritans who have sought to lend a helping hand to a chilly iguana by first transporting them in their car. The unfortunate side effect of combining a lethargic reptile with a warm, confined space is chaos.

“They can recover quickly in hot weather and use their long tails and sharp teeth and claws when defensive,” the FFWCC added. Yeah.

The same advice goes for bringing iguanas into your home. Although you can be cold and they are cold, just like mountain lions, you don’t want to let them in. It is also a bad idea in general to move the frozen iguana from its crash site as they are invasive species, and therefore it is both illegal and bad for native wildlife.

What to do with a frozen iguana?

Now we ticked off what not to do, on what To do: The invasive status of iguanas in Florida means owners are allowed to humanely kill anything on their land, and if you can’t, it’s best to bag them or put them in a carry basket so you can hand them over to a local wildlife center or veterinarian.

Alternatively, you can just leave them to deal with the harsh winter weather. Euthanizing animals or letting “nature take its course” is a bitter pill for wildlife lovers to swallow, but the harsh reality is that these animals have a catastrophic influence on local ecosystems. Although it’s the humans’ fault that they made it to Florida, the iguana’s downfall is a seasonal reminder that these animals don’t belong here.

Whatever actions you take, it’s important to be wary of even the most popsicle iguanas, as they can give a nasty bite or scratch if it turns out they aren’t so sleepy after all.

Some people even eat iguanas, earning them the nickname “tree chicken”. However, if you decide to go the invasive route, it’s not advisable to load multiple iguanas at once, as shown in this story by Ron Magill of Zoo Miami at NPR.

“This gentleman just thought, wow, I just have a bunch of protein here… He’s picking up all these iguanas that look dead on the road that fell out of the trees… And he put them in his vehicle. He loads them up like he’s stocking up for a big barbecue,” Magill said.

“When they got back in the vehicle, the vehicle got warm and these iguanas started to come back to life. And all of a sudden they started getting up and running around in the car, and it caused an accident. .

Ouch.

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