As 40-degree temperatures cover the state thanks to one of the most severe winter storms in modern history, many residents awoke to discover seemingly “frozen” iguanas littering the landscape. Images of the reptiles began popping up on social media, leaving those who encountered the odd sights wondering what to do.
In South Florida, it’s “raining iguanas.” The frigid temperatures being experienced in the region are impacting the reptiles, which are coldblooded, leading them to become immobile.
According to Kristen Sommers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission, when the temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, iguanas become sluggish. And, if it drops below 40 degrees, their blood effectively stops moving.
Since iguanas generally dwell in trees, the temperature has “become cold enough that they fall out.”
While the phenomenon isn’t new, with similar incidences occurring during cold snaps in 2008 and 2010, according to a report by the Washington Post, it certainly isn’t common.
“The reality is South Florida doesn’t get that cold very often or long enough that you see this frequently,” said Sommers.
Many residents wonder what, if anything, they should do if they encounter a frozen iguana.
CBS12 News reporter Maxine Bentzel stated in a Twitter post that “iguanas have a good chance of thawing out if you move them in the sun,” but cautioned readers to “be careful.”
However, experts recommend not touching the animals, with Sommers saying that the iguanas could become frightened as they warm up and, “like any wild animal, it will try to defend itself.”
In 2010, Ron Magill learned about that risk the hard way, as he collected the frozen iguanas in a bag, which he placed in the back of his station wagon. As the reptiles warmed up, they become more active.
“All of a sudden, these things are coming alive, crawling on his back and almost caused a wreck,” according to a report.
Green iguanas are considered an invasive species in Florida, as they are not natural to the area and are known for destroying landscaping and damaging infrastructure when the burrow. The wildlife commission works to train homeowners to trap or manage iguanas on their properties properly and, according to Sommers, the cold weather may be ideal for such activities.
“This provides an opportunity to capture some, but I’m not sure it’s going to be cold enough or long enough to make enough of a different,” said Sommers. “In most cases, they’re going to warm back up and move around again, unless they’re euthanized.”
While the cold snap in 2010 did lead many iguanas to die, the population has since rebounded, and the invasive species is thriving in South Florida once again.