Green Iguanas: The Radical Reptile

Green Iguanas are one of our most popular educational animals here at Critter Squad and we have a few that have been through some pretty rough times.  Hans, is a Green Iguana that was surrendered by a one of our followers and she found Hans stuck in the back yard of a house she was renting.  This person didn't know much about lizards, but knew that there was something wrong.  As she described  the animal to me I could tell it was and iguana, but I was thrown off because she was saying, "I'm pretty sure it's a snake".

I continued speaking to her and she described the animal having back legs and a tail, but no front legs. So, by this point I was very confused, but we allowed her to drop off the animal anyway.  Upon arrival I was able to tell that it was a Green Iguana, which is normally a proud and majestic animal that big, green and has a large tail and legs.  I would have never thought in a million years that a green iguana could be mistaken for a snake, but upon closer examination I realized that the Green Iguana had his front arms completely chewed off.  Yes, that right defenders!  The iguana didn't have any front arms left, which would explain why the animal was stuck in someone's backyard.  Now Hans is a part of our educational outreach team and is an important part of our animal team spreading awareness for himself and other iguanas.

Are Green Iguanas friendly?

Yes, for the most part Green Iguanas are a friendly lizard, but the term friendly is a relative term used to describe the animals temperament, so there are many factors that come into play when describing their behavior.  For example, males tend to be far more aggressive then females and males go through a mating period or a seasonal period called roosting, which is a very aggressive time for them when they only care about fighting other males and taking control of a mate.  Females Green Iguanas are generally nicer then males, they are also smaller and not equipped with mechanisms to defend themselves like males are.  Females have smaller hands and claws, smaller tails, along with smaller mouths and dewlaps.  When dealing with pet Green Iguanas you will find that many of them are tame and nicer then you would imagine.  This happens from dedicated interaction with the lizards and taking the time to work with them on a regular basis.

Why are Green Iguanas invasive?

This is a great question and to start off, animals do not have a list of special characteristics with one of them being "invasive". In fact the majority of animals are capable of being invasive, but it is situational and something that only happens with a perfect scenario.  For example, being an invasive animals means that you are able to establish in a non-native area and exploit the resources there better then animals that already live there.  So, this usually happens when animals are released into the environment and that new environment has similar qualities to where they would normally live. This allows the animals to establish shelters and food sources, along with increasing their chances for survival.   So, in the case of the Green Iguanas, these are tropical animals that are usually kept as pets.  When Florida pet owners have iguanas and they are released in to the wild or escape, they are able to survive fine due to the tropical habitats found in Florida.  With a perfect habitat and plenty of food, the iguanas feel right at home.  Now, if you give it a little bit of time the iguanas will start to form territories and eat food that may be used by the native wildlife, causing competition and stress on other species. After this the Green Iguanas are considered invasive.  Invasive species are big problem, especially in Florida and there is currently many programs in place to remvoe and control the invasive populations.

Do Iguanas carry any diseases?

Iguanas for the most part do not harbor or carry any diseases that you need to directly worry about.   Certain reptile species are know to carry salmonella, but this is caused from the foods they eat and living in poor sanitary conditions.  The reptiles most like to carry a disease like salmonella would be turtles, due to their lives being spent in the water.  Aquatic animals will poop in the water they live in, so when touching them and forgetting to wash your hands will leave you open to catching salmonella.  Iguanas do love swimming and water, so there is times they will poop and soak in their water as well.   When this happens changing the water regularly and washing your hands will help make sure you and your iguana stay disease free.

Do Iguana bites hurt?

Yes, I think that it is safe to safe that iguana bites do hurt and they are capable of causing some damage.  Iguanas have powerful jaws and teeth that are built to tear apart leaves and fruits, so an iguanas teeth can easily do damage to your soft skin.  Taking a bite from a large male iguana could ultimately equal a trip to the hospital and stitches to help with the wound.

What are iguanas favorite food?

The majority of iguanas are primarily herbivores and specialize in eating leaves and vegetation, along with fruits and veggies.  There are some iguanas that have a slightly carnivorous diet and will eat small rodents and other animals, but it is only a few species and they do not eat that regularly.  Basing this answer off of our iguana species living here at Critter Squad Wildlife Defenders zoo I would say that the most favorite food of the Green Iguanas is banana.

To learn more about Green Iguanas- head over to our kids zone and explore the Reptile Center!  You will find all kind of amazing reptile facts and cool information about our scale covered friends. We also have tons of games you can play and lots of coloring pages you can download and do in class or at home!

Keep Exploring Defenders!