The recent cold snap has made Florida so frigid it’s causing Iguanas to fall from trees.
According to the National Weather Service in Miami, parts of southern Florida dropped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 5 degrees Celsius) Thursday morning, causing some poor tree-dwelling lizards to appear frozen to death and plummet from their perch.
But they’re not actually dead (probably). They’re actually still alive, just frozen stiff.
The green iguana is an invasive species common to Miami suburbs. Like most reptiles, iguanas are cold-blooded, which means their bodies don’t regulate their internal temperature the same way mammals do. As ambient temperatures fall, so too does the temperature of the iguana.
The scene at my backyard swimming pool this 40-degree South Florida morning: A frozen iguana. pic.twitter.com/SufdQI0QBx— Frank Cerabino (@FranklyFlorida) January 4, 2018
According to Kristen Sommers, a worker at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, once temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (or 10 degrees Celsius) “it’s too cold for them to move.”
They may appear frozen to death, but as Sommers tells the Associated Press, “Don’t assume that they’re dead.” They’re actually just so cold their bodies simply can’t function, causing them to seize up and fall from their perches high in the treetops.
The fall is unlikely to kill the poor creatures, but concerned reptile-lovers are advised to not handle the frozen critters as it could startle them into delivering a painful bite.
Iguanas aren’t the only reptile having trouble with falling temperatures. Sea turtles can react in much the same way - freezing up and floating atop waves, unable to move. The Wildlife Commission is currently rescuing seized-up sea turtles but has no such plan for iguanas.
Considered a pest animal, iguanas dig up lawns and undermine infrastructure. The Wildlife Commission has recently begun holding workshops on dealing with Iguanas, but this cold snap might not last long enough to be useful from an extermination standpoint.
“This provides an opportunity to capture some, but I’m not sure it’s going to be cold enough for long enough to make enough of a difference,” Sommers said. “In most cases, they’re going to warm back up and move around again, unless they’re euthanized.”