The night the iguanas fell: Cold snap chills Florida and now iguana meat is up for sale

Story Highlights

  • The temperature in Miami dropped to a nippy 40 degrees Wednesday morning.
  • The cold stuns but doesn't necessarily kill the iguanas.
  • They are considered to be an invasive species in Florida.

The forecast verified.

On Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Miami issued an unusual warning about cold-stunned iguanas falling from trees across South Florida.

And Wednesday morning, reports and photos appeared of the reptiles laying on the ground:

“Verification of the @NWSMiami warning,” tweeted NOAA meteorologist Eric Blake, who included a photo of a stunned lizard on Virginia Key, Florida. “That boy ain’t going nowhere … young one couldn’t take it (might be dead).” 

Another photo of an iguana laying on the ground was taken in Oakland Park, Florida. 

This has prompted a sale of iguana meat, dubbed “chicken of the trees,” which started showing up on Facebook Marketplace overnight in South Florida, the Miami Herald reported.

“Mango season may be months away, but if you live in South Florida today, your trees may be ripe for the picking – of iguanas,” the Herald said, which included the headline “Tacos, anyone? Iguanas are falling from trees, and people are selling the meat online.”

A stunned iguana lies in the grass at Cherry Creek Park in Oakland Park, Florida. The National Weather Service Miami said residents shouldn't be surprised if they see iguanas falling from trees as lows drop into the 30s and 40s. Jan. 22, 2020 (Photo: Joe Cavaretta, AP)

The temperature in Miami dropped to a nippy 40 degrees Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service, with a wind chill was in the mid-30s.

That’s the coldest Miami has been in more than nine years, the Weather Channel said. 

The cold should be short-lived: “After a frigid start to their Wednesday morning in Florida, where freeze warnings and wind chill advisories are in effect across all of the Sunshine State, a return to more typical weather is expected,” the weather service said. 

Low temperatures Wednesday night should be in the 50s while highs Thursday rise into the 70s.    

As for the iguanas, the cold stunned but didn’t necessarily kill them.

“Iguanas are cold blooded. They slow down or become immobile when temps drop into the 40s. They may fall from trees, but they are not dead,” the weather service said.

Nightmare of the iguana: Florida tells homeowners to kill green iguanas ‘whenever possible’

Considered to be an invasive species in Florida, iguanas are native to Central America, tropical parts of South America and some Caribbean islands.

Iguanas are allowed to be kept as pets in Florida but are not protected by any law except anti-cruelty to animals. They’ve been in South Florida since the 1960s, but their numbers have increased dramatically in recent years.

This could be due to milder winters: “We’re going through multiple winters that are failing to get as cold as almost every winter did a few decades ago,” Weather Underground climate blogger Bob Henson said. “This is happening at the same time that iguana populations are multiplying across South Florida.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

Iguana stunned by the cold in front of my house near West Palm Beach. Last pic has my flop for scale.

I figured I’d find him– he’s a regular around my yard.

cc: @SurfnWeatherman@JimCantorepic.twitter.com/yDFne6UOv7

Here they are! Cold stunned iguanas around Miami and Fort Lauderdale after the coldest air in 10 years! We hit the upper 30s in spots. #FallingIguanaspic.twitter.com/He8jqkjFo2

Verification of the @NWSMiami iguana warning! That boy ain’t going nowhere… young one couldn’t take it (might be dead) pic.twitter.com/P8d2y3PzIO

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