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Green Iguanas and Raccoons in Southern Florida….an Interesting Dilemma

Released and escaped green iguanas (Iguana iguana) have now established huge populations in southern Florida. Although I must admit to a certain degree of fascination with introduced species, there can be no doubt that the massive lizards have caused a great many problems in their adopted environment.

An Impressive but Bothersome Invader
Normally arboreal, iguanas adapt to treeless environments by commandeering burrows occupied by the endangered burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), displacing the birds and destroying eggs and chicks in the process. Ever hungry, the 4-6 foot long behemoths also assist the spread of undesirable invasive plants by eating their fruits and dispersing the seeds in their feces.

Among one of their most troublesome characteristics is a propensity to colonize airway strips and nearby areas. Green iguanas in Puerto Rico have caused runway accidents, and they are considered a collision hazard in Florida airports as well.

Raccoons in Cities and Nature Preserves
RaccoonRaccoons, although native, have also become problematical in recent years. Now well adjusted to people, they thrive everywhere…during my years as a nuisance wildlife trapper, I caught scores throughout NYC, including in some of Manhattan’s most densely-populated neighborhoods.

Raccoon populations in south Florida parklands reach 250 animals per square kilometer – 200 times the densities of those dwelling in natural habitats! In addition to serving as a reservoir for rabies and distemper, raccoons in Florida pose a serious threat to the nesting success of green, loggerhead and other marine turtles.

Please check in next week to see how a well-planned control program for both iguanas and raccoons went astray…and would up helping the iguana population to grow astronomically!

Further Reading
Iguanas make fascinating pets, but, as males may exceed 6 feet in length, they are not for the unprepared. Please read our cage guide, Green Iguanas, before you take on one of these impressive giants. Green Iguana image referenced from Morguefile.

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