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FL Press: Slow the spread of iguanas

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Mon Jul 14 20:49:24 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

SUN-SENTINEL (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) 07 July 08 Palm Beach County wants to slow the spread of green iguanas (Josh Hafenbrack)
Arnold Kravetz's Boca Pointe home has been overrun by a parade of unwelcome, misbehaved visitors. They eat the annuals out of his garden, scale his patio screen enclosure and leave droppings in his swimming pool.
They're green iguanas, those ubiquitous, unsightly reptiles that scarf down flower beds, sun on pool decks and drive family dogs to distraction throughout South Florida.
"They're a menace, that's all I can say," said Kravetz, 71, of West Boca. He said the iguanas started hanging around after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
Today, Palm Beach County joins a growing campaign to try to slow the spread of iguanas, although state wildlife officials caution their numbers have swelled too much to ever be eradicated. County commissioners will ask the state Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to add green iguanas to the list of "reptiles of concern," a designation that requires iguana owners to pay a $100 annual permit and have microchips implanted in them.
Like almost anyone in South Florida, county commissioners tell of their own encounters with the reptiles. Jeff Koons said a 5-foot iguana has taken up residence in his daughter's backyard. Bob Kanjian was surrounded by 25 or 30 of them during a recent round of golf.
Five-feet long, leathery-skinned and skilled at adapting to their suburban surroundings, the iguanas native to Central and South America first came to Miami-Dade County in 1966. Spread by hurricanes and pet owners who release them when they grow too big to handle, the iguanas number too many in South Florida and the Keys for officials to count.
But that doesn't mean iguanas are ripe to be tagged "reptiles of concern," said Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the fish and wildlife commission. That designation is left for pythons that grow to 12 feet long, anacondas and an aggressive, 7-foot lizard called the Nile Monitor. By contrast, green iguanas eat only plants and pose no apparent threat to the ecosystem, he said.
Despite today's County Commission vote, people still have few options when iguanas invade.
County animal control officers won't bother with them. The only options to deal with iguanas but still comply with animal cruelty laws: grab a pellet gun or a water hose and take aim, hire a pricey private trapper or learn to coexist with the reptiles."There's nothing you can spray down or magic elixir that's going to make the iguanas go away," said Todd Axten, who runs pest control at Critter Control of Delray Beach. His company charges a $299 flat rate to trap as many iguanas as they can catch in a week.
For Kravetz's part, he complained to his community association, wrote to his county commissioner and called county animal control, to no avail. He's weighing a last-ditch option: putting poison in his flower bed, although he said he doesn't want to kill the iguanas.
Palm Beach County wants to slow the spread of green iguanas


   

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