Iguanas in the Landscape
Iguanas that were once escaped or released pets have become an established population in south and central Florida. Green, Mexican spiny-tailed, and black spiny-tailed iguanas have all adapted to and become landscapes pests in the subtropical environment.
Adult iguanas feed on foliage, flowers, and fruit and occasionally other animals such as insects, birds, and eggs. Their feeding can damage and destroy landscape plants and shrubs, flowers, and dooryard fruit (except citrus).
Iguanas will also congregate and bask in open areas, including sidewalks, docks, seawalls, and open mowed areas. Burrows around and under seawalls that cause the walls to collapse and problems with sight and smell of droppings are two examples of other issues iguanas’ presence causes.
Iguanas can give bites, scratch wounds, and slap with their tails to defend themselves if cornered.
Control and Management
- Tolerance. Allow and share space with iguanas in the landscape. Learn to appreciate or even enjoy them, but do not feed any iguanas—it will only attract more and cause a larger problem for you and your neighbors.
- Exclusion. Protect valued plants with screens or cages. You can also put sheet metal around trees, about 18 inches out from the base, to keep iguanas from climbing them.
- Habitat Modification. Avoid planting species iguanas prefer for food (see below). Remove piles of timbers or rocks. Install electric fences on seawalls and docks.
Iguanas can also be controlled by natural predators that eat iguana eggs and young, such as birds-of-prey, raccoons, snakes, herons, and cats and dogs. Once they are adults, they have fewer enemies.
Freezes limit iguanas’ range expansion and will kill or slow them in range areas during winter weather. Cold-stunned iguanas are easy to collect and remove.
Iguana Plant Choices
Bougainvillea, hibiscus/rosellia, Hong Kong orchid tree, impatiens, nasturtium, orchids, pink pentas, purple queen, roses; vegetable greens, squash/melons; most fruit and flowers, tender new growth.
Croton, milkweed, oleander, some pentas; citrus; toxic or tough/thick leafed plants.
- Harassment. Spray iguanas with a water hoses and startle with loud noises. Dangle CD-ROM discs in areas you want to deter iguanas. Move the CDs around so iguanas do not become used to the light reflections.
- Egg Removal. Fill vacant burrows with concrete and sand during the day while the lizards are away. Build mulch or sand piles near sea walls to encourage nesting instead of burrow digging under the walls; open the nests and remove eggs.
- Capture and Removal. Iguanas can be captured and removed from private property without special permits. Iguanas may be caught by hand, net, or traps. Only live traps and snares are legal in Florida.
It is illegal to release iguanas in Florida. Any captured iguanas must be kept in captivity or euthanized. We recommend hiring a nuisance wildlife professional due to the difficulty of performing humane euthanasia.
Iguanas are edible and the meat is considered a delicacy in their native range. Iguana meat may have value for ethnic markets that cater to Central and South American immigrants.
For more information on iguana proof landscaping and wildlife management resources, contact your local Extension agent.
Adapted and excerpted from:
W. Kern, Dealing with Iguanas in the South Florida Landscape (ENY-714), Entomology and Nematology Department (rev. 08/2009).