Iguanas in Florida are relatively large reptiles with sharp claws and even sharper teeth, but are they dangerous to humans? Many herbivores, after all, tend to be innocuous.
Generally speaking, iguanas in Florida are not dangerous. Only when cornered or provoked will they attack a person or pet. In fact, iguanas are much more likely to run away rather than attack when approached. However, as a last resort, iguanas can inflict physical damage by using their tails as whips and their sharp teeth to bite.
Although iguanas are for the most part harmless, they can be dangerous via the spreading of disease.
Are Iguanas In Florida Dangerous?
After owning a green iguana, I can best describe them as reptiles which like to be left alone. Prior to taming my iguana, she was extremely aggressive, but only when I approached her.
The same can be said of wild iguanas living in Florida. Iguanas are arboreal creatures, meaning they live and spend most of their time perched high up on trees. With a view from that elevation, they can pretty much observe everything and everyone, and they can care less what you’re doing.
However, if an iguana were to be on the ground, and you happen to get too close, their body posture will immediately change to let you know you’ve gone past their comfort zone.
Therefore, iguanas are not dangerous unless you get too close. Keep your distance and you have nothing to worry about.
In fact, iguana attacks in Florida are extremely rare, as they prefer to flee than fight.
Do Iguanas In Florida Bite?
Unless you or your pet get too close, iguanas in Florida are highly unlikely to bite. Furthermore, it’s extremely rare for an iguana to lunge at someone, as they prefer to be left alone or run away if approached.
Do Iguanas In Florida Spread Disease?
Iguanas are known to contract and spread Salmonella, a bacterium that lives in the lizard’s intestinal tract and feces. Salmonella is zoonotic, meaning it can spread from animals to humans and vice versa.
Fortunately, the bacteria is not air-born. Contracting Salmonella requires you to come into physical contact with a surface that has also been in contact with an infected iguana, and then by touching your eyes or an open wound.
Therefore, contracting Salmonella is not that common, even for a place with large iguana populations like Florida.
According to the CDC, Salmonella is responsible for 1.35 million cases, 26.5 thousand hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the US every year. The majority of those cases are attributed to food infections.
Are Iguanas In Florida Dangerous To Pets?
Iguanas pose more of a risk to pets than people, as dogs and cats are much more likely to approach and provoke them or come into contact with feces containing Salmonella.
Despite the fact that iguanas are more of a threat to pets than humans, your pets are nevertheless unlikely to be attacked by iguanas.
How To Detect A Dangerous Iguana In Florida?
As I’ve previously mentioned, iguanas will change their body posture to let you know you’ve gotten too close. The closer you get, the more hostile they will become.
The following are signs of a dangerous iguana which may or may not attack in the order you’re most likely to see.
1. The Iguana Stands Sideways
When an iguana feels threatened, it will immediately stand sideways to appear larger in the hope of scaring away the perceived threat.
2. The Iguana Nods At You
Believe it or not, iguanas nod their heads, as if they’re saying yes to you. Different nods have different meanings. However, if the iguana is nodding while standing sideways, take it as a threat to back away.
3. The Iguana’s Tail Gets Ready To Whip
Next, the iguana’s tail will straighten out and get stiff. It’s basically cocking it’s tail to get ready to whip you, and believe me, it hurts.
A whip from an adult iguana can break the skin, so I’d take the iguana’s threat seriously.
4. The Iguana Opens Its Mouth
If you’ve disregarded the previous signs, the iguana will more than likely open it’s mouth to glare its sharp teeth at you. However, it’s not an empty threat. Get too close, and you’ll find out just how sharp those teeth are.
Put it this way, when my iguana bit me, I didn’t feel her teeth tearing into my forearm. Her teeth were so sharp that they smoothly pierced my skin, like a sharp knife cutting through butter. She was only a juvenile at the time, but had she been an adult, I would have probably needed stitches.
5. The Iguana Hisses
Last but not least, the iguana will begin to hiss, and usually combines the hiss with a wide eye stare.
For the iguana to behave this way, you basically have to be at roughly arms length. At this point, you’re risking the iguana actually lunging at you, a rare occurrence that few people have witnessed.
Do yourself a favor and back away after warning sign number one.