MIAMI, Fla. – The National Weather Service routinely alerts South Florida residents about heavy rain and hurricanes, but temperatures are expected to drop so low this coming weekend that forecasters issued a falling iguana alert on Thursday.
“Brrr! Much colder temps expected for Christmas. Low temperatures in the 30s/40s and falling Iguanas are possible. Keep up with forecast changes and stay warm!” NWS Miami tweeted.
The low temperatures stun the invasive reptiles, but the iguanas won’t necessarily die. That means many will wake up when temperatures rise.
Iguanas aren’t dangerous or aggressive to humans, but they damage seawalls, sidewalks, landscape foliage and can dig lengthy tunnels. The males can grow to at least 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weigh nearly 20 pounds (9 kilograms).
Female iguanas can lay nearly 80 eggs a year, and South Florida’s warm climate is perfect for the prehistoric-looking animals. Iguanas are native to Central America, tropical parts of South America and some Caribbean islands.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, green iguanas were first reported in Florida in the 1960s in Hialeah, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne along Miami-Dade County’s southeastern coast. Green iguana populations now stretch along the Atlantic Coast in Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties and along the Gulf Coast in Collier and Lee Counties.
South Florida’s extensive man-made canals serve as ideal dispersal corridors to further allow iguanas to colonize new areas.
Green iguanas are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty laws and can be humanely killed on private property year-round. The FWC encourages removal of green iguanas from private properties by landowners. Members of the public may also remove and kill iguanas from 25 Commission-managed public lands without a license or permit under Executive Order 20-17.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)