Cold Florida temps causing iguanas to ‘freeze,’ fall out of trees

Science and Innovation

It’s so cold in Florida; iguanas are freezing and falling out of trees.

The temperatures in the Sunshine State have gotten so cold that iguanas are freezing and falling out of trees.

Temperatures in Florida dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit early Thursday in parts of South Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Apparently, the temperatures were cold enough to immobilize green iguanas common in Miami’s suburbs.

Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino tweeted a photograph of a reptile lying belly-up next to his swimming pool. WPEC-TV posted images of another iguana on its back on a Palm Beach County road.

Kristen Sommers, who oversees the non-native fish and wildlife program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told The Associated Press the cold-blooded lizards start to get sluggish when temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Besides iguanas suffering from the cold, sea turtles also stiffen up when temperatures drop. The wildlife commission’s biologists have been rescuing cold-stunned sea turtles found floating listlessly on the water or near shore, but no such rescue was planned for iguanas.

Officials have warned residents to leave the iguanas alone if they find them since they may feel threatened and bite once they warm up.

“Don’t assume that they’re dead,” Sommers said.

Green iguanas are an invasive species in Florida known for eating through landscaping and digging burrows that undermine infrastructure. They can grow over 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, and their droppings can be a potential source of salmonella bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

The wildlife commission said the lizards could be easier to catch this week.

“This provides an opportunity to capture some, but I’m not sure it’s going to be cold enough for long enough to make enough of a difference,” Sommers said. “In most cases, they’re going to warm back up and move around again, unless they’re euthanized.”

In 2010, a two-week cold snap with temperatures below 40 degrees in South Florida killed many iguanas, along with Burmese pythons and other invasive pets that thrive in the state’s subtropical climate.

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