By Cole Timmer
Steve Johnson, assistant of wildlife ecology, has a warning for people who want to buy a pet iguana.
“They start off small and cute, then they grow to be a few feet long, and people dump them after they have gotten to be too big,” he said. His job is to deal with exotic animals, mostly in the pet industry. And the common type of animal he deals with is invasive animals.
All different types of invasive animals were introduced to America through the pet industry, including the iguana. An invasive animal is an animal that is not native to the area and has a negative effect.
After buying an iguana you’ll notice them starting to get bigger. Eventually you’ll want to throw them out in the forest. This is a bad thing because it is illegal and harmful to the environment. Dumping them out can result in a fine or prison time.
But there are some people that decide to keep iguanas once they grow into the adult size. They will turn vicious and can attack other pets and sometimes even you. They can bite, scratch, and even use their tail as a whip.
He also said, “You’re paying taxes that go into managing invasive iguanas.” What he’s trying to say is, if you don’t dump them out you won’t have to pay for them to be managed.
And when iguanas are released they can produce many babies that will eat native plants and animals causing them to die out. They also defecate everywhere which can cause plants to die. This is where the classification of an invasive species takes place.
Even if you do throw it out in the forest the weather can kill it. This past winter we had record cold temperatures which caused them to die and fall from trees. This is because of a fatal illness which can cause other animals to die.
“Some dogs had found them and ate the iguanas which caused them to contract the illness, this led to them to die or be very sick,” he stated.
There are legal ways to get rid of iguanas that have gotten too big. You can return it to the pet store where you purchased it. Finding it a new home is another useful option, these can be zoos, aquariums or a person’s house. Or the most common for pet iguanas, euthanasia. It is most common because most iguanas are difficult to handle.
After talking about euthanasia Steve said, “It has to be done sometime, and they don’t live much longer in their adult life.”