By Joan Murray

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s being called the “green plague.”  Hundreds of thousands of green iguanas now call Florida home. And with another mild winter in South Florida, the population is exploding.

Iguanas have been known to chew through power lines, causing outages, as well as destroying sea walls and spreading dangerous salmonella through their droppings left on sidewalks and poolsides.

“On a sunny day, it looks like Jurassic Park,” said Dawn Braeseke, who owns Cooper Colony Golf and Country Club in Cooper City.

Braeseke spends hundreds of dollars a year trying to control the herds of iguanas that roam her course.

“They eat all of our foliage, turtle eggs and burrowing owl eggs,” she said.

The scaly grazing reptiles have even collapsed bridges by burrowing through the dirt.

“On any given day, we take between 20 and 30,” she explained. “But if we don’t get rid of the big daddies, they will keep populating.”

Like many frustrated property owners, Braeseke has a pellet gun that she uses to legally euthanize the iguanas at her golf course and home.

“I love animals but these are affecting Florida,” she lamented.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, because green iguanas are not native to Florida, the reptiles can be legally removed from your property by lethal force as long as you follow local ordinances.

“We don’t see them going away.  We try to educate the public to deal with the conflict when iguanas are on their property,” said Carol Lyn Parrish with the FWC.

Recently, a few dozen homeowners attended an FWC sponsored workshop in Pompano Beach to learn about managing the iguana infestation.

Homeowners were told to try hanging compact discs on trees to scare iguanas away, wrap trees to avoid the iguanas from climbing, trade out flowering foliage for less appetizing varieties, install rapid water shooting sprinkler systems and set traps.

It’s up to the homeowner how to euthanize the trapped iguana.

Iguana removal has become big business in South Florida.

For a few hundred to several thousands, a homeowner, city or homeowners association can pay to have iguanas removed.

Redline Iguana Trapping is bagging hundreds a day. Owner Perry Colato said iguanas use the water as a highway system, so homeowners who live on the water often have a huge problem.

At pilot Marcia Graff’s home, Colato has helped remove close to 100 iguanas.

“I’m a big gardener, so to see my handiwork destroyed, it’s frustrating,” said Graff.

The trapped iguanas are taken to a secure location and euthanized.

Iguanas have no predators and a female can lay up to 80 eggs.

A steady deep freeze 10 years ago in South Florida helped to thin the population. But until that happens again, the iguana population will keep growing.

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