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This State Is Asking People To Kill Wild Iguanas In The Cruelest Way

They claim it's "humane" — but a lot of people disagree.

Scientists recently suggested something very controversial — they’re encouraging people in Florida to bash iguanas’ heads against walls or boats, or to shoot them with bolt guns used in slaughterhouses.

Iguanas are native animals in parts of Central and South America, but they’ve unfortunately become an invasive species in Florida. They started to appear in Florida as a result of the pet trade — irresponsible owners either allowed their pet iguanas to escape or deliberately dumped them.

Green iguans sitting on cement sidewalk
SFWC/HSUS

While it’s not the iguanas’ fault that they ended up in Florida, some believe they’re having a negative impact on the local environment, eating their way through native foliage and causing structural damage to buildings by burrowing in the ground beneath. And this is what prompted a group of scientists, who are contracted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), to ask the public to kill iguanas by bashing their heads.

“They can be captured and killed on private property at any time with landowner permission,” Carli Segelson, a public information coordinator for FWC, told The Dodo. “The FWC encourages the lethal removal of iguanas; however, landowners are not required to remove iguanas from their property.”

Injured iguana being cared for at rescue center
An injured iguana being cared for at SFWC — he'd been shot five times with an arrow | Deborah Robbins Millman/HSUS

While these scientists claim head bashing to be a “humane” way to get rid of iguanas, animal welfare advocates disagree.

“The cruelty issue is the biggest part of this,” Debra Parsons-Drake, executive director at the South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC), told The Dodo. “If head bashing is done absolutely perfectly, it can kill the animal with one blow, but that does not happen. It requires multiple impacts to kill these animals, and that’s just horrific.”

Injured iguana sleeping inside cage at vet
The iguana who'd been shot five times recovering at SFWC | Deborah Robbins Millman/HSUS

Parsons-Drake also believes the scientists’ suggestion has paved the way for other acts of cruelty against iguanas — and the SFWC, which rescues and rehabilitates many types of animals such as squirrels, owls and turtles, has had a recent influx of iguanas with horrific injuries.

“They’re ensnared in traps, they’re shot with weapons,” Parsons-Drake said. “We recently had one that had five arrows impaled in it. They’re poisoned, they’re run over by vehicles. We’ve had animals that have been tied up and floated in a pond.”

X-ray of iguana who had been shot by arrows
X-rays showing arrows piercing an iguana's body | Deborah Robbins Millman/HSUS

“We’ve seen iguanas with tails that have been chopped off close to the body,” Parsons-Drake added. “Their tails will recover and regrow, but if you cut it too close to the body, it creates massive pain and it’s a challenge for them to survive because they use their tails as a weapon.”

So far this year, the SFWC team has treated 85 iguanas who have been deliberately injured by people, and they expect to receive more patients as the months go on.

Vets caring for injured iguana
Vets caring for the iguana who'd been shot five times | Deborah Robbins Millman/HSUS

SFWC and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are calling upon FWC to stop this method of killing iguanas, and to look at more humane ways to get them out of Florida.

“The killing of iguanas in Florida is unnecessary, inhumane and will ultimately be ineffective,” Nicole Paquette, vice president for wildlife protection at HSUS, said in a statement. “Conflicts with iguanas can be mitigated, and any killing that is done other than by properly-applied American Veterinary Medical Association approved methods is unacceptable, as is clearly the case with the brutal approach of banging iguanas against walls and boats.”

Injured iguana inside cage
The injured iguana recovering at SFWC | Deborah Robbins Millman/HSUS

One humane method is removing eggs from iguanas’ nests, according to Parsons-Drake. “The problem is the females are typically egg-bearing by 2 and a half to 3 years old, and they can lay up to 30 eggs annually, so they definitely are breeding, and the population is increasing,” she said. “But we could be destroying the eggs.”

Another way is to place stricter regulations on the pet trade, which is how iguanas got to Florida in the first place.

Injured iguana recovering at vet
Deborah Robbins Millman/HSUS

“We urge the Fish and Wildlife Commission to immediately reconsider the methods they are utilizing to kill iguanas and to implement a ban on the purchase, sale and possession of potentially invasive species in the state,” Paquette said.

Until more humane solutions are found, Parsons-Drake suggests learning to live alongside these distinctive-looking creatures.

Green iguana outside in Floria
SFWC/HSUS

“The best thing people can do is to peacefully coexist with iguanas in their own yards,” Parsons-Drake said. “Take advantage of easy exclusionary devices if you have flowers and plants you wish to protect. And, if you witness cruelty to iguanas of any animal, immediately contact your local law enforcement agency.”

To help iguanas who have been deliberately injured in Florida, you can make a donation to SFWC.