Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Iguanas can grow up to six feet long and are "aggressive"
during the mating season.

They are the most unlikely warriors you will see in the United States. They are elderly retirees, they are armed, they are angry and they are filled with blood lust. Blood lust for the monster iguanas that have invaded their retireee island paradise.

Some 10,000 of the "ill-tempered" reptiles are over-running the upmarket retiree community of Bocca Grande in Florida.

The Times of London is calling it a "turf battle," claiming the residents of Bocca Grande, outnumbered ten to one by the "ill-tempered" reptiles and the residents are now trying "reclaim their homes, gardens and beaches from the prehistoric-looking interlopers.

"'I think the iguanas may have met their match in the people of Boca Grande," Bill Sweetser, an animal trapper on the mainland, said. He recently set up a service, Iguanagon, in response to the problem. 'It’s war down there.'"

One of those going into battle is 60 year old Bonnie McGee. She proudly keeps a pellet gun by the back door of her home to fight off the reptiles. She has "taken out a few".

Residents are reporting they have even been bitten by iguanas, who apparently get very aggressive during the mating seasons. Well, who doesn't?

It's not just air guns that are weilded as weapons. Pouring bleach over the reptiles apparently works very well, as do golf clubs, and there are iguana traps for sale in the local hardware stores.

Now the local officials are getting involved and are considering bringing in the professionals to help with the eradication program. But it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the locals will have to pay an "iguana tax" to meet those costs. This has reportedly caused some ugly scenes at public meetings.

Once cherished as unusual pets, thousands of iguanas escaped, or were set free, by owners at the end of the Great Iguana Pet Boom of the 1970s. Since then, the large, bright-green skinned reptiles breed rapidly and when food supplies are healthy, they can grow up to six feet in length.

The iguanas have been causing "chaos" for years in Florida, eating flowerbeds, raiding pets' food bowls left outside, getting into roofs and insulation, swimming up sewer pipes and out of toilets and beating the heat in backyard pools, fouling up the water. They can be found defacating on back porches and lazing around on sofas inside homes.

Female iguanas can breed twice a year and lay some 50 eggs at a time. In Florida, at least, except for the occasional brave dog, the iguanas have no natural predators and so their numbers have grown unchecked for at least six years. Until, that is, Florida retirees began to arm themselves with air guns.

Years ago, the iguana population was under control and they were featured prominently in tourist guides as the "Dragons of Gasparilla". T-shirts were flogged and locals lobbied for the iguanas to be protected.

Bizarrely, the reptiles were hand fed by local restuarants and the previous generation of retirees, and the reptiles favorite food, hibiscus plants, were cultivated specially for them.

But the iguanas have fallen from grace after breeding out of control, tearing up the landscape and invading homes. Some estate agents, while showing around clients, have found the three-foot beasts lounging defiantly on sofas.

But it's not such a clear cut story. The other side, the local environmentalists, claim the 'War' is a beat up by a few local "angry millionaires, who object to the reptiles hanging around their swimming pools and using their patios as lavatories."

Hilariously, the local paper, the Boca Beacon, has an environmental columnist, and she doesn't buy the "out of control" claims about the iguanas at all. She has accussed the locals of acting "like a lynch mob."

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