The Role of Natural Predators in Iguana Population Management

Iguanas are a major nuisance. Male green iguanas can grow to over five feet in length and weigh up to 17 pounds. Females can also reach five feet in length but usually do not exceed seven pounds. Green iguanas can live on the ground, in shrubs, or in trees in a variety of habitats, including suburban developments, urban areas, and agricultural areas. They are excellent swimmers. They can tolerate both salt and fresh water and can even submerge underwater for up to four hours at a time. If this sounds like they can live and thrive in Florida, you’re absolutely correct.

Is It Legal to Kill Iguanas?

Residents and locals alike can look around and see that iguana populations in Florida are on the rise. Many Florida homeowners want to control the iguana population in, on, and around their property. Like all non-native reptile species, green iguanas are not protected in Florida, except by anti-cruelty laws, and can be humanely killed on private property with landowner permission. This species can be captured and humanely killed year-round and without a permit or hunting license.

Yet, many Florida residents aren’t sure how to do it. You don’t want to leave poison around. Other animals, like pets, could accidentally eat the poison instead of the iguanas. It’s a much better idea to use iguanas’ natural predators to control their population.

Trapping Iguanas

Traditional live animal traps baited with grapes, pieces of ripe melon, papaya, or mango can be very effective, especially if the traps are pre-baited for some time prior to setting the trap. In order to use this type of trap, leave the door open and place food in the trap so the iguana gets used to entering the trap for food. Once they are regularly entering the trap, release the door and set the trap normally. 

Florida law requires that animal traps be checked at least once every 24 hours. When trapping iguanas, or any animal, check the trap as often as possible.

Using Iguanas’ Natural Predators

Iguanas are not native to Florida and so are not protected in Florida, except by anti-cruelty laws. In tropical America, where iguanas are originally from, large predators like ocelots, pumas, jaguars, anacondas, boa constrictors, and people eat adult iguanas. In Florida, raccoons, snakes, hawks, owls, egrets, herons, cats, and dogs kill the majority of iguanas, especially the eggs, hatchlings, and juveniles.

Using an animal’s natural predator is known as a “biological control method.” It is the most natural way to deal with a threat. Implementing biological control methods is an effective and sustainable way to manage invasive iguanas. There are professional pest control companies that can introduce or encourage the presence of natural predators, including bird species such as herons or hawks, to the area. This is extremely effective in helping to control the iguana population naturally, without dangerous poison or other items.