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Sanibel Exotic Lizard Management Program continues

November 14, 2016
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

To protect Sanibel's native vegetation and wildlife populations from exotic green and spiny-tailed iguanas and to monitor for the potential presence of other exotic lizards, such as Nile monitors, the City of Sanibel continues to implement the Exotic Lizard Management Program approved by City Council in 2007.

Citizens are requested to report exotic lizard sightings 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the Sanibel Police Department at their non-emergency number (239) 472-3111. Unless there is an imminent threat to human safety, do not call 9-1-1.

From 2007-2010, more than 2,000 green iguanas and one Nile monitor lizard were removed from Sanibel. In the winter of 2010, prolonged cold temperatures were fatal to many of the remaining iguanas on Sanibel, rendering the management program unnecessary. However, as the green iguana population rebounded and the presence of an exotic spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura sp.) was confirmed on Sanibel in the vicinity of Beach Road on Dec. 17, 2014, it was clear that the reinstatement of the Exotic Lizard Management Program was necessary and warranted. A second sighting of a spiny-tailed iguana was confirmed on Eagle Run Drive in the Beachview neighborhood on March 26, 2015.

Unlike the common green iguana (Iguana iguana), which is primarily an herbivore that feeds on exotic flowers, spiny-tailed iguanas are omnivores, known to feed on flowers and vegetation, but also on small vertebrates including bird and turtle eggs and may occupy burrows of other species (such as gopher tortoise). A reproducing population of spiny-tailed iguanas could have very serious impacts on a number of the island's native wildlife species. Unfortunately, spiny-tailed iguanas are significantly more difficult to catch/trap than the common green iguana, due to their tendency to burrow underground and/or seek shelter underneath rocks, or other objects, as opposed to the arboreal (tree-living) nature of the green iguana.

Since reinstatement of the Exotic Lizard Management Program in February 2015, more than 1,200 green iguanas have been removed from Sanibel. No spiny-tailed iguanas have been captured, but no additional reports have been confirmed since March 2015. There have been no confirmed Nile monitor lizard sightings since a dead carcass was recovered from an inland lake near Rabbit Road in 2008.

As it can be difficult even for experts to distinguish between exotic lizard species when the animals are on the move or at a distance, citizens are requested to report any exotic lizard sighting.

All reported sightings will be investigated by the City Iguana Contractor for appropriate action. The contractor uses a variety of tools and techniques and is only authorized to remove iguanas from private property once the property owner has reported an iguana(s) to the Police Department. The contractor is not on-island at all times, so generally will not respond immediately, but will respond on his next scheduled day. Most iguanas have small home ranges and high site fidelity and will remain in the general vicinity for some time. The City Iguana Contractor will be clearly identifiable in a safety green colored shirt with "Lizard Control" printed on the front and back of the shirt, as well as magnetic decals on any vehicle(s). Verified sightings will be mapped in order to focus management activities and track population trends.

If you have any questions regarding the City of Sanibel's Exotic Lizard Management Program contact the Natural Resources Department at (239) 472-3700, or visit To report suspicious activity, contact the Sanibel Police Department immediately at (239) 472-31111 or dial 911 in case of a life threatening emergency. Citizens are also reminded to contact the City (239) 472-3700 to verify the licensing status of any contractor working on Sanibel.



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