Above video from January 2022.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s close to experiencing winter weather for Christmas, but unlike other parts of the U.S., the Sunshine State doesn’t have snowfall, it has iguanas.
The invasive species of reptile, which first hit Florida in all of its green, tree climbing glory in the 1960s, does not handle winter temperatures well. Like all reptiles, meaning lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and of course alligators, green iguanas are cold-blooded.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences puts impacts of cold for the lizards on a different scale.
“Green iguanas can become an aerial hazard during severe cold snaps in south Florida,” IFAS said. “Sustained temperatures of 30–40 degrees Fahrenheit cause green iguanas to become lethargic and stiff, and they may fall out of trees as a result.”
They can also impact holiday travel, since the iguanas like to sun themselves on runways and tarmacs, IFAS said, including that the critters have delayed flight departures at at least one Florida airport.
According to data of where these green, and sometimes orange, iguanas like to stay, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they live all over Florida.
Specifically, you can run into iguanas “along the Atlantic Coast in Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties and along the Gulf Coast in Collier and Lee counties,” but “there have also been reports as far north as Alachua, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River and St. Lucie Counties.”
When temperatures hit below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the iguanas enter slow motion mode, and sometimes even freeze up. The National Weather Service in Miami said that means they can fall out of trees, thanks to what’s known as being “cold-stunned.”
FWC said this is a phenomena that affects sea turtles in the water. Iguanas also experience it while in trees, due to the change in temperature.
The Tampa Bay area got a firsthand look at the iguana-fall in January, when iguanas were seen falling from trees during a cold snap in Largo. While the reptiles may look dead, they’ll thaw out after temperatures warm.
WFLA.com’s Max Defender 8 forecasts a drop to just above freezing by Christmas, meaning that while we may not get a white Christmas in Florida, it’s possible we’ll get a green one.