How to keep igua­nas from in­vad­ing your yard

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Local - By Su­san­nah Bryan

MIRAMAR — They’re like un­wel­come guests with bound­ary is­sues, feast­ing on your rose­bush by day, snooz­ing in your mango tree by night and re­liev­ing them­selves in your swim­ming pool when they please.

We’re talk­ing about igua­nas, of course, those drag­on­like crea­tures that showed up in Mi­ami in the 1960s and never left, mak­ing them­selves at home through­out South Florida and be­yond. They can lay up to 70 eggs at once, have no nat­u­ral preda­tors and are thriv­ing in our sub­trop­i­cal cli­mate, leav­ing home­own­ers des­per­ate for so­lu­tions on how to get rid of them.

State wildlife of­fi­cers are spread­ing the word on how res­i­dents can keep their prop­er­ties safe. Their most re­cent meet­ing

came re­cently at Miramar City Hall, where they gave home­own­ers tips on how to keep their yards iguana-free.

Here’s what they rec­om­mend:

Bait and trap

Set traps dur­ing the day when igua­nas are ac­tive and close them at night to pre­vent tar­get­ing cats, rac­coons and other wildlife. Check traps at least once every 24 hours — it’s the law.

Igua­nas can get cuts and wounds when try­ing to es­cape from traps, so cover traps with fo­liage or card­board to help the an­i­mals feel less ex­posed.

Use ripe non-cit­rus fruits for bait, in­clud­ing straw­ber­ries, ba­nanas, man­goes, wa­ter­melon and grapes.

Where to put those traps

Place traps next to trees, fences, walls, shrubs and other places igua­nas gather. For the wel­fare of any caught an­i­mals, traps should be placed in a shaded area, never di­rect sun­light.

The fi­nal good­bye

Some peo­ple mis­tak­enly think they can kill an iguana any way they want. But some re­moval meth­ods are le­gal and oth­ers might land you be­hind bars on an­i­mal­cru­elty charges. Any­one caught us­ing an in­hu­mane method to kill an iguana can be ar­rested and charged with a felony pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

You can’t drown, freeze or poi­son them — or shoot them with a cross­bow.

De­cap­i­tat­ing them is also con­sid­ered in­hu­mane be­cause it leaves the brain in­tact and will cause un­nec­es­sary pain, ex­perts say.

“We’ll use firearms to quickly de­stroy the brain,” wildlife bi­ol­o­gist Dan Quinn told one group of res­i­dents in­ter­ested in learn­ing about trap­ping the rep­tiles. “We ei­ther use a

high-pow­ered pel­let ri­fle or a cap­tive bolt gun. We some­times use a gun.”

Hu­mane meth­ods

The agency urges home­own­ers to check with their city and lo­cal po­lice de­part­ment be­fore us­ing a pel­let gun to take out an iguana. The shot needs to hit the brain to make the kill hu­mane, ex­perts say.

The agency urges prop­erty own­ers to the Amer­i­can Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion web­site for guid­ance on hu­mane killing meth­ods.

“We tell peo­ple to keep it as hu­mane as pos­si­ble,” said Ron­ald Wash­ing­ton, one of sev­eral wildlife of­fi­cers at Thurs­day’s event.

Those who don’t have the stom­ach to trap and kill the an­i­mals can hire a wildlife trap­per to do the job.

A list of trap­pers can be found at MyFWC.com by search­ing “trap­pers by county” and click­ing on “Nui­sance Wildlife Trap­pers” in the search re­sults. The next work­shop will likely be held in Laud­erdaleby-the-Sea in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber, an agency of­fi­cial said.

Change up your land­scap­ing

Make your yard less invit­ing by re­mov­ing dense thick­ets, rock piles and land­scape de­bris that pro­vide pro­tec­tive cover for igua­nas.

Re­move veg­e­ta­tion that igua­nas love to munch on, in­clud­ing flow­er­ing plants like hibis­cus, or­chids, roses and im­pa­tiens. They also eat kale, broc­coli, col­lards, let­tuce and beets.

Igua­nas tend to steer clear of tough plants with thick leaves as well as cit­rus, pen­tas and cro­tons.

Keep out!

In­stall sheet metal around trees about 18 inches from the base to pre­vent climb­ing.

Use cages and screen en­clo­sures to pro­tect valu­able plants.

In­stall elec­tric or wire fence bar­ri­ers to pre­vent

dig­ging.

De­ter­ring the crit­ters

Use wa­ter hoses and mo­tion-ac­ti­vated sprin­klers to en­cour­age igua­nas to move along.

Scare igua­nas by hang­ing CDs near sea walls or on trees and plants you want to pro­tect.

Change the po­si­tion of the CDs of­ten so igua­nas don’t get used to them.

Star­tle them with loud noises or by play­ing the ra­dio or mu­sic.

Igua­nas just love pet food, leafy greens, fruits and veg­eta­bles. Feed pets in­doors and re­move fruit that has fallen from trees or plants.

Never ever feed an iguana. That’s like putting up a “Wel­come” sign for igua­nas and their friends.

Af­ter talk­ing to the ex­perts, Miramar Vice Mayor Yvette Col­bourne said she’s now think­ing about get­ting rid of her mango tree and planting some­thing less iguana-friendly. Her back­yard is home to at least a dozen igua­nas at the mo­ment.

“We’ve had more igua­nas this year than ever be­fore,” Col­bourne said. “You can tell they’re breed­ing.”

JIM RASSOL/SUN SENTINEL

Ex­perts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion host a work­shop on igua­nas at Miramar City Hall on Fri­day.

JIM RASSOL/SUN SENTINEL

Clin­ton Cun­ning­ham of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion an­swers ques­tions about igua­nas dur­ing a spe­cial work­shop at Miramar City Hall last week.

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