It’s going to be cold in parts of Florida this weekend, but the temperatures aren’t all that will be falling.
“Falling iguanas possible this weekend — especially Saturday night!” Brian Shields, a meteorologist at WFTV in Orlando, Florida, cautioned residents.
This isn’t the first time the state has seen this type of warning. Indeed, the National Weather Service issued a similar warning last February for the Miami/South Florida area when temperatures were expected to be in the 30’s and 40’s.
“Well, it’s that time again,” the National Weather Service wrote on social media. “It’s cold enough for us to forecast falling Iguanas here in South Florida.”
Much of Florida is expected to experience temperatures in the low to upper 30’s this weekend. The problem is that green iguanas slow down and become immobile when temperatures are below 40. When that happens, they accidentally fall out of the trees they live in.
Florida’s Green Iguanas
If you live in Florida or have traveled there, you’re probably familiar with green iguanas. These lizards, which are typically green but can also be brown, are not native to Florida. Instead, they are an invasive species, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission explains.
Green iguanas are also considered a nuisance by homeowners. That’s because the iguanas can live on the ground, in shrubs, or in trees. Their diet mainly consists of the shoots, leaves, blossoms, and fruits of plants — particularly ornamental plants. Consequently, green iguanas can significantly damage both residential and commercial landscape vegetation.
By the way, the lizards aren’t small either. Male green iguanas can grow to more than 5 feet in length and weigh up to 17 pounds, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Females, on the other hand, can also grow to as much as 5 feet in length but they generally weigh around 7 pounds.
Stunned By The Cold
Green iguanas, which were first reported in Florida in the 1960s, are native to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. It’s believed they first arrived in Florida through the pet trade, and then people began releasing them into the wild when the lizards got too large, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Because they aren’t native to Florida, they aren’t able to tolerate the occasional cold temperatures.
“Depending on temperature and the amount of time cold temperatures are sustained, iguanas can be cold-stunned or even killed,” Sarah Funck, non-native fish and wildlife program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told USA Today. “When we reach near-freezing or freezing temperatures, iguanas can sometimes fall from trees and lie stiff on the ground,” because those cold temperatures cause the iguanas’ muscle control to shut down.
It’s important to note that when green iguanas fall from trees during a cold snap, they aren’t dead. As the sun comes out and temperatures warm back up into the 40s, the iguanas usually revive quickly, Funck explains.