Florida Wildlife officials took it upon themselves to exterminate invasive iguanas by smashing in their heads, an endeavor that’s part of a $63 thousand research project.
The state of Florida has been plagued with iguanas for the past decade. Initially introduced as pets from their Mexico and Central America native homes, these herbivorous lizards have spread to a point where they can be seen eating people’s gardens on a regular basis. More so, the reptiles have been damaging sidewalks and seawalls with their burrows. Iguanas have become such a nuisance that many Florida residents see them as pests, on par with squirrels and rats.
A team of researchers in Broward County, Florida, have been deputized by the state to kill the iguanas using humane methods.
Two teams made up of 15 researchers each, use blunt objects to destroy the lizard’s brain. Over a three-month span, the team has reportedly killed 249 iguanas.
“Most of what we’re doing is blunt force trauma,” said Jenny Ketterlin, a wildlife biologist and research coordinator with the university. “Hitting their head very hard against a solid object,”
While the method may sound brutal, Ketterlin says the head-bashing technique fall in line with Florida’s animal cruelty laws.
The researchers have also relied on a projectile weapon called a captive bolt gun, which is used to fire bolts directly into the reptile’s brain, instantly killing it.
Other extermination techniques have been considered, however, head bashing was deemed the safest and humane approach. One solution would have been to catch the animals and then send them to a veterinarian where they would be injected with deadly chemicals such as Halothane, Isoflurane, and Sevoflurane, a time-consuming process.
Freezing iguanas was deemed not safe as research found that brain painful ice crystals would form inside the lizards’ brains. Decapitation was also rejected, as awareness can persist for a full minute after an iguana’s head has been chopped off.
Once dead, the iguanas are transported to a nearby lab where they are measured and weighted and then sent to a landfill. The three-month project is set to run through May.
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