By ALEXANDRA HERRERA

Editor of the West Villages Sun

NORTH PORT — To battle the growing green iguana population across South Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is allowing — and encouraging — homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

The species is considered invasive. According to FWC’s website, the animals are not protected by any laws, except anti-cruelty laws.

The iguana population has boomed since the 1960s in Florida. Iguanas can cause damage to seawalls, pools and other properties. The animals are also a threat to endangered and native species, according to FWC.

A permit is not needed to kill the reptiles on private property and 22 public lands in South Florida.

According to the FWC’s Jamie Rager, poison cannot be used to kill the iguanas. Rager said those planning to dispatch iguanas need to follow the law.

“We want people to know that they can remove iguanas,” Rager said.

She advises residents who are removing the animal consult with legal resources.

Iguanas caught on private property can be euthanized by local exotic veterinarians in a humane manner. However, caught iguanas cannot be relocated, the FWC said. The reptile can cause harm to the native environment if relocated.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the animals must be killed swiftly and with a single hit.

If a person hits the iguana more than once, it can be considered animal cruelty. In Florida, prolonging the death of an animal or torturing an animal is punishable by up to a year in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.

Residents who use traps must check them every 24 hours. Prolonging entrapment is also against the law. Any other animals caught in the trap must be released immediately.

The animals can be captured using nets, cage traps and noose poles, according to FWC.

Another way to kill an iguana is to use an air pellet gun, however, using a firearm is not considered acceptable.

Freezing an iguana is no longer allowed either, because the animal feels pain as the brain crystallizes, according to the Sun-Sentinel story.

Iguanas are one of several types of animals that are considered invasive.

Lionfish, found in and around Florida reefs, can be caught and eaten. According to FWC, the fish is aggressive and attacks native populations.

Burmese pythons are also being hunted after a population boom in the Everglades in the early 2000s. The species poses a threat to the native fauna in the Everglades.

The python population is spreading out of the Everglades and have been found in Naples and near Lake Okeechobee. Python hunts are held in the Everglades as a way to try to control the animals.

State officials, realizing many of the exotic animals have been released by owners due to an inability to care for them or recklessness with their containment, offers a program to turn in the pets.

Known as the exotic animal amnesty program, it encourages pet owners to surrender these animals to FWC.

If you have a pet that needs to be surrendered call the exotic species hotline at 888-483-4681.

For more on the iguana, visit www.myfwc.com and click the engaging in conservation tab to access the non-native species list.

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