Watch out for falling iguanas if you are in Florida today, now that the temperatures have dipped so low they are dropping like flies. The cold puts the reptiles in a sluggish state, and as it gets colder, their bodies literally freeze up and they become stiff as a board. While they look dead, they are still breathing and can go the bathroom at any given time, as their body functions are still working while they are in this state of suspension.
Iguanas frequently hang out in the trees, and once this icy cold weather zaps them, their bodies become stiff and freeze in place. Without the ability to grip the tree, they fall to the ground or onto anything that’s in the way between the trees and the ground, like someone’s car.
Once the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, iguanas start to get sluggish, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Iguanas are cold-blooded lizards, and when the temperatures drop into the 40s, which it has in southern Florida this week, they literally freeze in place.
They have warned residents not to assume an iguana is dead even if it is laying belly up on the ground. They have also warned it is best to leave the iguanas alone because there is a chance that the lizard could bite them once they warm up, as they may feel threatened.
You can see what the iguanas look like once they’ve fallen from the trees in the tweet below from Maxine Bentzel, who is an anchor at Florida’s local CBS 12 channel.
Biologists from the wildlife commission have started rescuing sea turtles, who are having the same problem in the bitter temperatures. The cold-stunned sea turtles are found along the shore or floating listlessly on the water and biologists are rescuing them from the cold. They don’t have the same type of rescue planned for the state’s iguanas, according to Fox News.
It is cold, and that cold snap has encompassed the entire East Coast from Maine all the way down to Florida. The forecast indicates that the cold weather is going nowhere, so there doesn’t seem to be any relief in the immediate future for these reptiles.
According to CNN, there’s an “iguanocalypse” happening in Florida, which is demonstrated in pictures of the cold-stunned iguanas laying on the ground right where they landed when falling out of the trees. The lizards are littering the ground in areas of Florida, with some laying on the ground in belly-up positions looking as if “rigor mortis” has set in, reports CNN.
They can still breath, but they may lay around in that frozen-like state for a few days in the same position they were in when they hit the ground. Then, they just get up and start to move again. Even though they appear to be in a state of suspension, their body functions are still working, just maybe a little slower than usual, according to Emily Maple, who is the reptile keeper at the Palm Beach County Zoo.
While living in New England may be harsh during a cold snap where temps dip below zero, most of nature’s creatures that are indigenous to the region are suited for the cold weather. Florida is home to many wildlife species that aren’t suited for cold temps, like the iguana and the sea turtle.
The green iguanas seen in Florida can grow over five feet, and their droppings can pose a risk to people. Their droppings are a potential source of the bacteria salmonella, which causes food poisoning. They also are destructive little critters know for eating through the well-manicured lawns of Florida properties, and their digging also undermines infrastructure, according to Fox News.
This would be the time to capture these lizards, according to Kristen Sommers, who oversees the non-native fish and wildlife division of the wildlife conservation. Back in the winter of 2010, the cold killed a lot of the iguanas, along with the Burmese pythons and other invasive creatures that have made themselves a thriving home in the warm and tropical climate Florida traditionally hosts.