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An Information Guide to Duck Key in the Florida Keys


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Iquanas on Duck Key.
(revised April 2006)

In addition to being present in Central and South America, and some Pacific islands, iquanas are found in the Florida Keys. For now the iquana population on Duck Key seems to be under control, but other locations in the Florida Keys such as Big Pine seem to be inundated with iguanas.  There are reports of iguanas causing traffic hazards along US-1 and other roadways, and of homeowners and tourists being frightening by iguanas. This is understandable since iquanas may reach 7 feet in length, and weigh upwards of 40 pounds.

Normally iguanas live in rainforests, near river banks which may explain why they can be found in mangrove trees and on docks along the canals of Duck Key. They use their legs to swim and to climb the island's mangrove trees.

Female iquanas do not tend to their young. Young iquanas live in trees and consume insects that they must catch by themselves. If you notice a trench or hole near the edge of your property near the canal it is likely a female iquana has dug this receptacle to hold her eggs. She will cover the hole with soil. On Duck Key, young iquanas and the eggs of an iquana are subject to predators such as rats, snakes, and birds of prey.

 

Image of an iquana of the spiny tailed variety on Duck Key

 

Iguanas are a type of lizard in the reptile family. These lizards have a long tail, and four legs, and have eyelids. There are three types found in South Florida:  the "common green" iquana, the "Mexican spiny-tailed" and the "black spiny-tailed" iguana.

 

Iguanas on Gasparilla Island

Reporter Brian Skoloff for the Associated Press in April of 2006 reported that Gasparilla Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida is " . . . Besieged by Iquanas."

Female iquanas can lay as many as 75 eggs a year and that is apparently what they are doing on trendy and touristy Gasparilla Island. "The reptiles are found in a few other places in Florida, but nowhere in the numbers seen on Gasparilla Island, home to television renovator Bob Vila and a vacation spot for the Bush clan."

Gasparilla is so over-populated with Iguanas there are now 10 lizards for every year-round resident. Its lizard population approaching 12,000 iguanas has been described as an infestation. Iguanas are leaving their droppings all over, eating flowers and plants in people's gardens, entering the attics of homes and nesting, and have been roaming freely about. A scientist hired to study the problem is worried the reptiles "are destroying native habitat, spreading other invasive species through their droppings and endangering the town in the event of a hurricane. Iguanas burrowing into the island's dunes have residents worried the dunes will disappear with a storm surge.

The news article by Brian Skoloff explains Iguanas carry salmonella which could endanger native species. Additionally the reptiles eat the eggs of Gasparilla's resident gopher tortoises.

Residents have taken to purchasing traps and pellet guns, but according to Kevin Enge, an exotic species expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, "There's no way you'll get rid of them all. Once they're established to that extent, it's a lost cause."

University of Florida

"Damage caused by iguanas includes eating valuable landscape plants, shrubs, and trees, eating orchids and many other flowers, eating dooryard fruit like berries, figs, mangos, tomatoes, bananas, lychees, etc. Iguanas do not eat citrus. Burrows that they dig undermine sidewalks, seawalls, and foundations. Burrows of iguanas next to seawalls allow erosion and eventual collapse of those seawalls. Droppings of iguanas litter areas where they bask. This is unsightly, causes odor complaints, and is a possible source of salmonella bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning. Adult iguanas are large powerful animals that can bite, cause severe scratch wounds with their extremely sharp claws, and deliver a painful slap with their powerful tail."

For additional information on "Dealing with Iguanas in the South Florida Landscape" by W. H. Kern, Jr. go to information on iquanas. Kern's University of Florida article quotes from a Miami Herald article. Quoting part of a Miami Herald article,

"The lizards, Bergh said, love to swim, tend to defecate near water -- meaning boats, seawalls, and Jacuzzi platforms -- and are known to carry nasty germs, such as salmonella, that can be transferred to humans.

Kern believes from his study " that without deep commitment and effort over time, we have no chance to either eradicate or control the Iguana invasion of South Florida."

 

 

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