It Rained Iguanas This Week, But Florida Knows What to Do

Pro tip: Check your car before turning on the heat.
January 23, 2020, 4:15pm
A maintenance worker places iguanas immobilized from cold temperatures on the pavement outside an apartment complex in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.

Just when you thought Florida couldn’t get weirder, this week it literally rained iguanas.

Floridians woke up Wednesday to find reptiles lying prone on pool patios, sidewalks, city streets, picnic tables, and yes — terrifyingly — in cars.

"Don't be surprised if you see iguanas falling from the trees tonight," the Miami National Weather Service office tweeted on Tuesday.

The weather forecast was pretty spot-on. Temperatures fell that night to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the area's lowest in nine years and low enough to throw iguanas, reptiles that thrive in tropical temperatures, into shock.

That slowed the cold-blooded reptiles’ metabolisms way down to the point where they became immobile and came crashing down from trees. This is serious, folks: Iguanas can grow to up to 5 feet long and 20-odd pounds. Getting hit by one can be dangerous.

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But that’s not the only threat of iguana “rain.” Iguanas can get pretty feisty when they warm up. One man was attacked by a crew of iguanas that eventually awoke from their frozen state in his car.

Despite the risk, some brave Samaritans took it upon themselves to swiftly transfer the frozen iguanas into sunlight or under blankets in their homes. But experts warn even a "frozen" iguana can bite.

"Incapacitated as you think, they can give you a serious bite," Ron Magill at the Miami Zoo told NPR. "They can give you a serious scratch, a serious whip with their tail. They can present that kind of physical injury to you."

The iguanas have also literally become the low-hanging fruit for some Floridians with questionable taste. Some residents took the opportunity to sell iguana meat online. Eating iguanas is just one of the many attempts to curb the exploding green iguana population.

The invasive species, introduced by pet owners, is a nuisance to South Florida, damaging seawalls, digging burrows, and tearing up landscapes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advised residents in July 2019 to kill iguanas “whenever possible.”

But this cold spell won’t be enough to make a dent in the population. With increasing temperatures through Wednesday afternoon, the iguanas were back on their feet, hanging out in trees, and pooping in pools, as they're known to do.

Cover: A maintenance worker places iguanas immobilized from cold temperatures on the pavement outside an apartment complex in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Photo: Saul Martinez/Bloomberg via Getty Images)