A plague of iguanas upon your house! Frigid Miami conditions conspire to kill our lizards.


Lizards were literally raining down in Miami this past week. Remember the toad rain scene from Magnolia? That’s what I pictured when I heard about this plague of [mostly] iguanas that fell upon our houses and in our yards when the temperatures dipped below freezing and the wind blew hard.


Our hospital saw one and we got calls about several more. Apparently we weren’t the only ones to get phone calls. Frantic pet lovers besieged Animal Control and our Museum of Science (they have a wildlife rescue on their premises) with calls about what to do with them.


My answer? Bring them inside. They’re usually not dead; they’re just in torpor (sort of like a really deep sleep). Warm them up in an enclosed cage-like structure (like a dog crate) and when they’re up and about take them to an iguana lover you know for safe keeping.


But whatever you do, I cautioned, don’t release them back to the “wild.” They don’t belong here, as their condition clearly illustrates.


Indeed, our native lizards are all OK. My gang of porch geckoes and anoles seem none the worse for the nights of cold. I saw them sunning themselves languorously as soon as the sun was high enough to bring the temps back up to comfy.


But the iguanas? Mostly, they were found on their backs, stiff and ashy gray.


Serves them right, some said. They belong elsewhere. Here, they eat up our native plants and pollute the Everglades with their pet shop-acquired salmonella infections, thereby endangering sensitive species. One local herpetologist even suggested we eat them instead of sending them back out—the dead ones, I assume. He suggests garlic and butter.


While I’m not averse to eating lizard (I did so while living in Mexico for a few months in 1996), I’m not sure these creatures deserve to meet an ignominious end in a sauté pan. Not when their existence here is no fault of their own.


It’s the less responsible herp-lovers among us who are to blame. They release them when they get too big or too annoying to feed—or something like that, I guess. Shame on them.


Still, it seems someone (Fish and Game?) would take advantage of these cold snaps to round up the creatures across the county and shelter them somewhere or euthanize them humanely, if that’s what we decide as a community needs to happen when humans do stupid things. After all, there’s no Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) for lizards and no placing a feral iguana.


Anyone want to start an iguana sanctuary?