Invasive iguana populations have soared in Florida, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a $63,000 research project to figure out the best way to get rid of the lizards. But the Sun Sentinel and Gizmodo reported some people are taking issue with one method: that of smashing in the iguanas’ heads.
Iguanas can impact native wildlife and plants and irritate homeowners, according to commission spokesperson Carli Segelson. Gizmodo said many residents of Florida consider the reptiles pests, akin to rats. A 15-person University of Florida team, whose work is part of the commission’s project, is tackling the problem with methods like a captive bolt gun or bashing the reptiles’ heads against solid objects, including a boat and truck they’re traveling in to track the creatures down, according to the Sun Sentinel. Wildlife biologist Jenny Ketterlin said their methods are compatible with Florida’s anti-cruelty laws, and that destroying the iguanas’ brains rapidly is the most humane method of killing them. The team has taken out 249 iguanas near a canal over three months, and have spurned other extermination techniques on the grounds they’re inefficient, not safe, unproven, or crueler.
Some people don’t like the sound of smashing in iguanas’ heads. The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy executive director Lori Marino described the method as appalling; veterinarian Susan Kelleher said it’s cruel and a kinder method of killing the iguanas would be sedating and euthanizing them.
Gizmodo said this is a complicated situation. They spoke with iguana expert Joe Wasilewski who said he did cringe when he heard about iguana heads bashed in, but that this method is one of the better options we have. “In less than a second these lizards go from being cognizant to completely dead. Is that cruel?” he told Gizmodo. “Look, we kill millions upon millions of rats and cockroaches every year. The last thing I want to do is harm one. I’ve spent my whole career trying to improve their island habitats, but the sheer number of iguanas is exploding — it’s a situation that’s not getting better any time soon.”