Hunting Invasive, Green Iguanas with Pellet Rifles - Pervasive, Destructive & Surprisingly Tasty
Updated: Nov 7
if someone said to me 30 years ago, "Ken, someday you’re going to South Florida just before Christmas and you’ll use high-powered air rifles to shoot huge green iguanas everywhere from construction sites to city parks,” I can't imagine how I may have responded.
But there I was, toting a Gamo Swarm air rifle from Dec. 15-17 from Boca Raton to just north of Miami Beach, trying to tuck .22 caliber hunting pellets into or near the aspirin-sized brain of invasive, pervasive, destructive reptiles.
Iguana infestation grew from the exotic species “aquarium trade.” People bought iguanas later finding out their pets grow several feet long. They released the iguanas, thinking they were doing something humane. The reptiles flourished. Females can lay anywhere from a dozen to 80 or so eggs twice a year, depending on their size. The iguanas became something akin to a worst plague of groundhogs, suburban vegetation-eating deer, and scat depositing and water-contaminating geese. They dig 70-80—foot interconnecting tunnels, damaging infrastructure, eroding and collapsing sidewalks, foundations, seawalls, berms and canal banks. Their droppings contaminate docks, moored boats, seawalls, porches, decks, pool platforms and inside swimming pools.
Hunting Invasive Green Iguanas
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in April 2021 finally classified the green iguana as a prohibited species, meaning people could no longer get new ones as pets and the reptiles can, and should, be humanely killed anywhere in the state.
Iguana hunters can take the lizards from public lands managed by the FWC without a permit. The FWC also encourages private properties to remove green iguanas.
Our party primarily shot the new Gamo Swarm Magnum and Bone Collector (Gen3i) rifles, plus the lighter pneumatic pre-charged Arrow rifle. It was a bit surreal at times, strolling greenspaces between backyards and canals or down busy suburban and urban streets and parks with rifles. Motorists and homeowners don’t readily know what you’re up to, so detailed phone calls with local law enforcement are vital before strolling with that rifle.
Our iguana expedition leader was Harold Rondan of Iguana Lifestyles LLC, a pest control company specializing in iguanas.
See video below of Gamo's Tony Stratis sharing details about the three pellet-shooting air rifles we used on the iguana 2022 expedition to South Florida
I hazard to call it “hunting,” but it does require shooting skill, some stealth and absolute adherence to safety principles since you’re shooting near homes, vehicles and people.
“Those iguanas are used to seeing people all day. Mostly, people ignore them, acting like they aren’t even there. We need to do that when we’re carrying a rifle,” explains Rondan. “Don’t slow down. Don’t look at the iguana or make eye contact.”
Once you get within range, try to find something on which to rest your rifle, or something to lean in to, such as a palm tree or street light. Set your crosshairs and shoot.
We had challenging weather. Iguanas like warm, sunny days. An emerging cold front kept many of them in the trees. In a way, it was a bit like squirrel hunting. We maybe shot close to 100 between all of us, nothing remotely denting the population.
Iguanas can grow long - six feet or better – and sport a long, whip-like, horizontally striped tail that makes up about half that body length. While most female and younger green iguanas remain green, larger males engaged in a relentless late fall and early winter rut not unlike white-tailed deer, can turn brown/bronze or a vivid orange. The big ones, often glowing brightly, are easily spotted. They also like to shake the big dewlap under their chins in displays of dominance .
It was a bit of a goof before heading out on the trip for me to talk about ordering special iguana camo, attractant scents and even an iguana call. I called it the "Hibiscus Howler" so-named for one of the iguanas' favorite meals. Actually, it was on old Primos Hunting Calls push-button roar call. It gives a deep, throaty raspy roar. Early in the hunt, we had two big male iguanas in trees sunning and displaying in vivid color. We shot one from across the canal. The other retreated toward the trunk of the tree. Jokingly, I said that I was going to hit the Hibiscus Howler call and pull him out. I pushed the button a couple times and to everyone's amazement, the big iguana moved back into the open and began aggressively flapping is dewlap. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. Just wish we had it on video.
“Green iguanas were originally bred as a food species in Central America,” Rondan explains and are occasionally referred to as "chicken of the trees." With a little culinary skill, you can transform them into flavorful dishes, especially those that emphasize braising and Latin American spices. Look for recipes soon here at Outdoors Rambler!
An opportunity catch peacock bass in canals or ponds can be part of any iguana hunting endeavor. To find out how you can accompany the people with the connections and resources to get you into the thick of hunting invasive green iguanas with high-powered air rifles, contact Harold Rondan at Iguana Lifestyles LLC, (786) 320-1887 or email at Theiguanaguy305@gmail.com.
Note: The article also appeared in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star on Jan. 5, 2023.