How to keep iguanas from invading your yard
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.”
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.
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
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.”
Experts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission host a workshop on iguanas at Miramar City Hall on Friday.
Clinton Cunningham of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission answers questions about iguanas during a special workshop at Miramar City Hall last week.