It’s Raining Iguanas in Florida

Public Domain. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Iguanas are falling out of trees in Florida because of the cold; here’s what to do if you find one.

As this edge of the country is in the frigid icy grip of one of the strongest East Coast winter storms in modern history, even the usually balmy palm-tree riddled southern states are stunned. How cold is it? Iguanas in Florida are literally falling out of the trees.

Coldblooded green iguanas, like all reptiles, become lethargic to the point of immobility when the mercury falls far enough, Kristen Sommers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tells The Washington Post. They become sluggish under 50F degrees; when it dips below 40 degrees their blood slows down to a crawl. If they happen to be lounging in a tree, which they enjoy doing, they fall out.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but it isn’t normal.

“The reality is South Florida doesn’t get that cold very often or long enough that you see this frequently,” Sommers says.

Many a good samaritan are moving the chilled creatures to warmer spots to help them warm-up, but if you do that, do it with care. Moving them can be problematic; Sommers says they can become frightened and defensive when they warm up. “Like any wild animal, it will try to defend itself,” she says.

“Even if they look dead as a doornail – they’re gray and stiff – as soon as it starts to heat up and they get hit by the sun rays, it’s this rejuvenation,” Ron Magill, communications director for Zoo Miami, tells The New York Times. “The ones that survive that cold streak are basically passing on that gene.”

CBS News reminds us that green iguanas are an invasive species in Florida – the result of people releasing their pets into the wild. They can grow to over 5 feet in length, cause a lot of damage to landscaping and infrastructure, and their droppings can be a potential source of salmonella bacteria. But even so, I’m guessing most of us don’t want to see any animal suffering (aside from mosquitoes, granted) ... so if you want to help, take care. And in the meantime, beware of giant lizards falling from the sky.