What is a Green Iguana?
The green iguana is a large lizard that is green to brown to almost black in color, although they usually remain predominantly green as they mature. Some adults can take on an orange or pink coloration during certain times of the year. Hatchling and young green iguanas usually have bright green coloration. Male green iguanas can grow to over 5 feet in length and weigh up to 17 pounds. Females reach lengths similar to those of males, but usually do not exceed 7 pounds. Females typically reach reproductive maturity at two to four years of age. Females dig egg chambers that may contain nearly 80 feet of tunnels and multiple entrances and lay clutches of anywhere from 14-76 eggs. Green iguanas can live up to 10 years in the wild and 19 years in captivity.
Green iguanas can live on the ground, in shrubs, or in trees. Green iguanas are excellent swimmers and tolerate both salt and freshwater. They can submerge themselves for up to 4 hours at a time. Green iguanas feed on a wide variety of vegetation, including shoots, leaves, blossoms and fruits of plants such as nickerbean, firebush, jasmine, orchids, roses, Washington fan palms, hibiscuses, garden greens, squashes and melons. Adult green iguanas can also feed on bird eggs and dead animals. Juvenile green iguanas feed on vegetation, insects and tree snails.
The native range of green iguanas extends from Central America to the tropical parts of South America and some eastern Caribbean islands. 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. There have also been reports as far north as Alachua, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River and St. Lucie Counties. In cleared habitats such as canal banks and vacant lots, green iguanas reside in burrows, culverts, drainage pipes and rock or debris piles. South Florida’s extensive man-made canals serve as ideal dispersal corridors to further allow iguanas to colonize new areas.
Green iguanas can cause damage to residential and commercial landscape vegetation, and are often considered a nuisance by property owners. Iguanas are attracted to trees with foliage or flowers, most fruits (except citrus) and almost any vegetable. Some green iguanas cause damage to infrastructure by digging burrows that erode and collapse sidewalks, foundations, seawalls, berms and canal banks. Green iguanas may also leave droppings on docks, moored boats, seawalls, porches, decks, pool platforms and inside swimming pools. As is the case with other reptiles, green iguanas can transmit the infectious bacterium Salmonella to humans through contact with water or surfaces contaminated by their feces.
(Information and photo source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission)