Researchers are looking into possible solutions to Boca Grande’s iguana problem. Spiny-tailed iguanas have been a part of the island’s landscape since the 1970’s…but the reptiles are not native. They’re originally from Mexico…and likely ended up on the island as pets. Florida Gulf Coast University zoologist - Dr. Jerry Jackson – is leading a summer-long study—looking into ways to curb the lizards’ numbers or eradicate the population entirely.
“This is not your common green iguana. The spiny tailed iguana unlike the green iguana is not a vegetarian. It will eat anything. It eats hibiscus flowers…which it loves…but it will also eat baby birds, the hatchlings of sea turtles, and it uses gopher tortoise burrows. So it’s a threat to our native ecosystems and our native wildlife and has the potential to cause a great deal of harm in Florida environments.”
The iguanas…ranging from a few inches to several feet long… thrive on the island. Some estimates put the population well into the thousands. The spiny-tailed iguanas are thriving because they face few predators…
“It’s also an example of one of the things that really seems to be wrong in south Florida…and that is when people get tired of pets they turn them loose. That is a terrible thing to do, it’s also an illegal thing to do. But these iguanas are now found not only on Gasparilla Island, but on some other islands and other areas of southwest Florida…and southeast Florida.”
The 16-thousand dollar study will consist of 3 members. Dr. Jackson will be joined by his wife – Dr. Betty Jackson, who’s a biology professor at FGCU… there will also be a graduate student.
Dr. Jackson says because the population is somewhat isolated, there’s a chance of removing them 1 by 1…but it might be too late. It appears some people have captured the iguanas—again as pets—and taken them to other areas.
Tuesday, 03 May 2005 01:00