A cash bounty may be awarded for killing iguanas in Miami Beach, due to the overwhelming number of reptiles.
The iguanas, which are invading Miami Beach, have rapidly increased their population and caused damage, leading authorities to offer payments to hunters who kill the creatures.
“Something more needs to be done,” Barbara Benis, a resident who had to rebuild her seawall after iguanas tore it down, told Miami’s Local 10 News.
Green iguanas are invasive in Miami, native to South and Central America. Florida populations are thought to have arrived via boats carrying cargoes of fruit, with the pet trade then causing a population boom.
The iguanas, which can grow up to 5 feet long, are considered invasive due to their impacts on local flora and fauna, as well as property.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), iguanas damage vegetation in residential and commercial landscapes, eating fruits and vegetables, including the endangered native butterfly sage (Cordia globosa), and nickelnut/nickerbean, which is the main food of the endangered Miami blue butterfly.
Iguanas also dig burrows that erode and crumble sidewalks, foundations, levees, and canal banks. They can leave lots of droppings on porches and pools, which can transmit salmonella bacteria to humans.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told 10 News that the $50,000 budget to fight iguanas has been increased to $200,000 this year. At a town council meeting on September 14 on how best to handle the invasion, it was suggested that a bounty for every dead iguana could incentivize locals to get involved.
“I don’t know – dead or alive. But if we pay per iguana, we’ll get more iguanas,” commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez told 10 News. “People will go out and hunt them for money. I think that’s a better use of our money.”
According to the FWC, green iguanas are only protected by anti-cruelty laws in Florida, which means they can be legally humanely killed on private property year-round with the landowner’s permission.
While this approach may indeed incentivize killing iguanas, it could also lead locals down a well-known path known as the “cobra effect,” or perverse incitement.
This is named after a disastrous campaign by the British colonial government in India, where they offered a bounty for dead cobras in an attempt to minimize local poisonous cobra populations.
However, rather than killing and being paid for the cobras they encountered, locals realized they could make a lot more money if they raised cobras and killed them.
By the end of the campaign, once officials realized what was happening and locals released their now worthless cobras, there were more reptiles in the area than there had been at the start.
Regardless of whether a bounty ends up being enforced in Florida, the FWC suggests methods to protect iguana property, including removing plants that act as attractants, filling holes to discourage burrowing, hanging wind chimes or other items that make intermittent noises. who will deter them and sprinkle the animals with water.