Miami Beach Considering Putting a Bounty on Iguanas

by Taylor Cunningham

With the Iguana population on the rise in Florida, Miami Beach officials are considering putting a bounty on their heads.

The invasive species has been rapidly multiplying in recent years, destroying plants and structures along the way. So residents are asking the government to remove the nuisance.

“Something more needs to be done,” Barbara Benis told News 10 after one of the lizards destroyed her sea wall.

The green iguana, which is the specific lizard tormenting Miami Beach, is native to South and Central America. It made its way to the United State through the pet trade and by hitching rides on boats.

The animal can grow as big as 5 feet long and is taking a toll on the city’s plant life and property. Aside from devouring residential and commercial landscaping, Iguanas are also decimating the endangered butterfly sage plant, which is the main food source for the also endangered Miami blue butterfly.

Iguanas make further trouble by burrowing and causing sidewalks, sea walls, foundations, and canal banks to collapse. And, they leave droppings that carry salmonella all over porches and swimming pools.

The city originally set aside $50,000 to take care of its lizard problem. That amount jumped to $200,000 in 2022. But when it became obvious that the money wasn’t going toward useful projects, the city council suggested incentivizing iguana hunting.

“I don’t know – dead or alive. But if we pay per iguana, we’re going to get more iguanas,” said Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. “People are going to go out and hunt them for money. I think that’s a better use of our money.”

An Iguana Bounty Led to the ‘Cobra Effect’

The Florida Wildlife Commission says that green iguanas can be legally killed on private property year-round. And only anti-cruelty laws protect them. But the government predicts one possible problem coming from the program—the cobra effect.

The term comes from a similar project funded by the British colonial government in India. When the highly-venomous cobra population grew out of control, officials paid locals for handing over dead snakes. But people soon realized they could make a fortune by breeding the reptile and turning in the dead offspring. In the end, the country had less money and even more cobras.

While officials decide if they will enact their plan, the FWC asks people to take steps to prevent iguanas from coming to their property. The commission suggests removing certain plants that act as attractants and ensuring the holes are properly filled to keep the animal from burrowing. It also says that wind chimes will keep iguanas at bay. And if people see them on their property, spraying them with water will make them leave.