MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) – It's so cold in Florida that iguanas fall from their perches on suburban trees.
Temperatures dropped to less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) early Thursday in parts of southern Florida, according to the Miami National Weather Service.
It's cold enough to immobilize the common green iguanas in the suburbs of Miami.
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino tweeted a photograph of an iguana facedown next to his pool. WPEC-TV posted images of an iguana on its back on a Palm Beach County highway.
The Cold-blooded creatures native to Central and South America begin to slow when temperatures drop below 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius), said Kristen Sommers, who oversees the program of non-native fish and wildlife for the Conservation Commission of Florida Fish and Wildlife.
If temperatures fall below that, the iguanas freeze. "It's too cold for them to move," Sommers said.
They are not the only reptiles stunned by the cold this week: sea turtles also stiffen when temperatures drop. Biologists from the wildlife commission have rescued stunned sea turtles that float apathetically in the water or near the coast, but no ransom has been planned for the iguanas.
Well-intentioned residents are advised to find hardened iguanas that leave them alone, as they may feel threatened and bite once they become warm.
"Do not assume they are dead," Sommers said.
Green iguanas are an invasive species in Florida known for eating through landscaping and digging burrows that undermine infrastructure. They can grow more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) long, and their droppings can be a potential source of Salmonella bacteria, which causes food poisoning.
The wildlife commission has begun holding workshops to train owners and property managers to catch or manage iguanas. Reptiles may be easier to capture this week, Sommers said.
"This provides an opportunity to capture some, but I'm not sure it's cold enough to make enough of a difference," he said. . "In most cases, they will heat up and move again, unless they are slaughtered."
A two-week cold snap with temperatures below 40 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) in 2010 killed many iguanas, along with Burmese pythons and other invasive pests that thrive in the subtropical climate of South Florida. Those populations have recovered since then.
In another part of Florida, the effects of a brutal winter storm that swept the east coast were less exotic. It briefly snowed Wednesday in the state capital, Tallahassee, for the first time in 28 years.
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