(TMU) — Florida residents have been advised that it is now open season on the invasive green iguana population, which has grown out of the control of authorities and requires that they be killed “whenever possible.”
Experts say that the lizards—which are native to Central America, the eastern Caribbean islands, and tropical parts of South America—are reproducing at a rapid rate due to the especially warm year. Female iguanas can lay about 80 eggs per year, and the hardy creature measuring around 5 feet can live up to around a decade in the wild.
A notice posted by the state’s fish and wildlife conservation commission (FWC) said:
“Green iguanas are not native to Florida and are considered to be an invasive species due to the damage they can cause to seawalls, sidewalks, and landscape plants. This species is not protected in Florida expect by anti-cruelty law. Homeowners do not need a permit to kill iguanas on their own property, and the FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible.”
Green iguanas are considered to be an invasive species due to the damage they can cause to seawalls, sidewalks and landscape plants, which they enjoy burrowing under and leaving dropping on. The iguana could also present a threat to residential and commercial landscape vegetation, as well as an endangered native species of tree snail.
The iguanas are known to reside in burrows, culverts, drainage pipes and debris or rock piles. South Florida’s system of man-made canals have also served as “ideal dispersal corridors to further allow iguanas to colonize new areas,” the commission noted.
Green iguanas were first reported in Florida in the 1960s along Miami-Dade County’s southeastern coast, and authorities say that many have been brought to Florida as pets or were stow-aways on ships. In hot and humid Florida, the reptile has flourished.
The Burmese python, another invasive species, has also been wreaking havoc in the state’s Everglades because it has no natural predators and a voracious appetite for almost anything, according to the Associated Press.
Changing climate conditions across the planet have tipped the balance in favor of invasive species in recent years by removing the natural environmental limits on certain creatures. Warming temperatures and humidity have opened up the ability of foreign flora and fauna to colonize new territories that were previously inclement to species that thrive in hot, moist climes.
According to a recent study, alien species—those who are not endemic or native to a particular environment—have been a primary driver of extinctions affecting both plants and animals across the globe.
While extinction is a natural phenomenon that has historically happened at a natural rate of around one to five species per year, conservationists and scientists have warned that our planet is currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the past half-billion years, with phenomena caused by human economic activity—such as climate change and the introduction of alien species—driving most mass die-offs.
According to current estimates, the Earth is losing anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times the species than the natural “background” rate, with up to dozens of species meeting their final demise each day.