Tuesday, July 6, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Dangerous Iguanas
Most of us have grown so accustomed to seeing iguanas, we don't even think twice. But iguanas are not native to South Florida. And in many cases, these reptiles can be reckless to people and the enviroment. Here's 7's Carmel Cafiero on the pet turned pest case.
(WSVN) -- There are so many iguanas in South Florida - people often think they're natives.
But they're not, they're from Mexico and central and South America.
You just wouldn't know it.
For years, they've strolled our parks and yards like they own them..
Using razor sharp claws to climb trees...
Jumping out with no fear.
They are eating their way from the keys to Key Biscayne and points north.
They devour plants at home and in public places - with flowers at the top of the list.
As a result in Crandon Park, you won't find a hibiscus bloom anywhere.
Kevin: "So they tend to chew up everything that looks good…all your flowering plants, hibiscus, that type of thing."
Two kinds of iguanas have moved in in big numbers.
The spiny iguanas grow to be about three feet long ... Look like small dinosaurs and according to a recent University of Florida study...are eating endangered plants.
The study also reports they are muscling in on the homes of native critters like tortoises and eating birds and their eggs.
Then there are the common green iguanas. They are imported by the hundreds of thousands each year.
They are the most common pet trade lizard...And grow to six feet long.
Kevin: "As long as people leave them alone, they are not gonna bother people at all."
But if they are bothered, experts say they can have a nasty bite and don't let go.
Still, despite all this, the iguanas are so numerous at Crandon Park - they have become a tourist attraction.
Carmel: "You've probably heard the saying when life gives you lemons make lemonade. In the park's case it could be said when life gives you an aggravation - make it an attraction."
Kevin Kirwin: "Think about it - we're just seven miles from downtown Miami."
Kevin Kirwin says Crandon Park will soon offer canoe rides on canals that were part of the old zoo...A new twist to the urban jungle.
And the iguanas sure add to that don't they? They sure do, when they drop out of the trees, it adds to the excitement.
But it also adds to the problem.
We have iguanas right back here.
The Fort Lauderdale wildlife care center attends to injured animals and returns them to the wild.
However, its illegal to release iguanas and other exotic pets - so the center has no choice but to try and find homes for them...
And that can also be dangerous.
And when they get to be mature, especially the males, can really bite and they can get you with their tails..they can really cause a bad injury.
Still, despite the law, people release exotic pets which often struggle to survive.
So this summer if you think about bringing a little six inch iguana home from the pet store..
Keep in mind before you know it - he could be six feet long..and then what?
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE