Despite appearances, those rubbery reptiles lounging lifelessly around southern Florida are probably not dead. They’re just stunned from the cold.
Green iguanas have been falling from trees recently, their frozen bodies immobilized by temperatures that plunged profoundly for the region.
Like all reptiles, iguanas are coldblooded animals that become immobile once the weather dips below 40 degrees.
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino tweeted a photograph of an iguana he found Thursday morning lying belly-up next to his swimming pool.
“It’s so cold in Florida that … palm trees are dropping more frozen iguanas than coconuts,” he later wrote in a cheeky column that provided fellow Floridians with one-liners they could use in conversation with friends battling blizzards and sub-zero temperatures in the Northeast.
Maxine Bentzel, a reporter for CBS News 12 in Palm Beach, also posted photos of frozen iguanas to social media. In one tweet, she noted the animals have “a good chance of thawing out if you move them in the sun.”
But wildlife experts advised people to simply leave the lizards alone, saying reptiles may feel threatened and try to bite people once they warm up.
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Green iguanas are considered an invasive nuisance in South Florida, where they have proliferated in recent years because of the subtropical weather. The animals can grow more than 5 feet long, eat landscaping, dig burrows that undermine foundations and leave droppings that carry salmonella bacteria.
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It would take an especially lengthy cold snap to reduce the iguana population in Florida. That last happened in January 2010 when two weeks worth of temperatures that failed to climb higher than 40 degrees also killed off many invasive Burmese pythons, which were found floating in the Everglades.
“Although the iguana or python population may have some mortality occur, the length of time of cold weather may not be enough during this cold snap to make a significant difference,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement to the Palm Beach Post.
To prove that point, Cerabino on Friday posted another tweet of the same petrified iguana he found by his pool a day earlier after it had “reanimated himself in the afternoon sun.” The post featured a video the animal walking away.