Florida lizards are getting bigger and more aggressive; Now, iguanas are taking over the toilets

Jul 16, 2022 | 1 comment

By Dave Barry

We need to talk about the lizards. I think they’re up to something.

Here in South Florida we’re accustomed to lizards, of course; they’re everywhere. When I moved here decades ago, the lizards were one of the things I had to adjust to, along with the hurricanes, the 250 percent humidity, and the fact that Miami drivers actually speed up for stop signs.

But the lizards didn’t bother me, because even though there were a lot of them, they were small and cute and non-threatening. They seemed to spend most of their time just standing around doing nothing, like members of a miniature highway-repair crew.

The most aggressive lizard behavior I’d see was the occasional male lizard trying to attract a sex partner by displaying the skin flap under his chin, which is called a “dewlap.” Apparently it is a strongly held belief among male lizards that the chicks really go for a guy with a big dewlap. It’s kind of like weight-lifter human males who believe human females are attracted to large biceps and consequently wear tank tops everywhere, including funerals.

Iguanas have been common in South Florida for years but but now they’re migrating through the sewer system into people’s toilets.

But I was not threatened — nor, for the record, attracted — by the dewlap displays. I left the lizards alone, and the lizards left me alone. If I encountered lizards, say, on a sidewalk, they always respectfully skittered out of the way, in recognition of the fact that I was, compared to them, Godzilla.

But lately the lizards are different.

I don’t know what’s causing it. Maybe it’s global climate change. Maybe there was a leak from some kind of top-secret Chinese lizard laboratory. Whatever the cause, there seem to be a lot more lizards around than usual. But what’s really disturbing is that many of these appear to be a new kind of lizard: They’re bigger, and they’re uglier. They’re not the cute li’l Geico Gecko types. They’re more along the lines of junior-varsity velociraptors.

And they have an attitude. More and more, when I encounter sidewalk lizards, they do not skitter away. At best they casually saunter off in an insolent manner. I suspect they may also be vaping.

Sometimes these lizards don’t move at all: They just stand there defiantly, giving me that beady lizard eyeball, clearly conveying, by their body language, the message: “Why should I fear YOU? You have a small dewlap!”

Which, much as it pains me to admit it, is true.

Perhaps you think I’m overreacting. Perhaps you’re thinking, “OK, maybe the lizards are getting bigger and more aggressive. But why should I care? I spend most of my time indoors anyway, so this issue doesn’t really affect ME.”

A professional iguana catcher displays a lizard he just pulled from a toilet.

Oh really? Let me ask you a question: While you’re indoors, do you ever have occasion to use a toilet? I ask because of an alarming report I saw July 8 on NBC6 TV news. The report begins with a camera shot looking down into a toilet bowl, which contains a large iguana. As we’re seeing this, news anchors Jawan Strader and Jackie Nespral have the following exchange:

STRADER: Imagine walking into your bathroom at home and seeing this! An iguana in the toilet!

NESPRAL: OK, I don’t want to imagine that.

This exchange introduces a report concerning retirees Janet and Bruce Bleier, who, since moving to Hollywood from Long Island, have encountered not one, but TWO commode iguanas

The first time was in October, when Bruce went to use the bathroom late one night.

“I yelled to my wife, ‘There’s an alligator in the toilet!’ ” he recalls.

Janet discovered the second iguana. She offers this advice to NBC6 viewers: “Look before you sit.”

In both cases, the Bleiers called Harold Rondan, proprietor of a company called Iguana Lifestyles, who came and took the iguana away. (Iguana removal is a major industry in South Florida.)

Perhaps at this point you’re thinking, “OK, so this one couple had two iguanas show up in their toilet. It’s probably just a fluke. It’s not like it’s an epidemic.”

Oh really? Well perhaps you would be interested to know that on July 10, just two days after the NBC6 report about the Bleiers, another local station, WSVN 7News, carried a report about another Hollywood resident, Michelle Reynolds, who came downstairs one evening and looked into her toilet. Guess what she found?

That’s right: Rudy Giuliani.

No, that would be pretty great, but that’s not what happened. She found an iguana. A LARGE iguana.

“He took up most of the toilet bowl,” she tells 7News. There’s video of the iguana being removed, again by Harold Rondan of Iguana Lifestyles, who identifies it as a Mexican spiny-tailed iguana. Even by iguana standards, this is an ugly animal, and it does not look happy. You can tell by its facial expression that its goal in life is to grow much bigger so that one day it can come back and eat Harold Rondan of Iguana Lifestyles.

And that’s not the end of our story. On July 11, one day later, the Bleiers were once again on the local TV news. It turns out they had yet another toilet iguana. This was their THIRD.

So please don’t try to tell me this isn’t an epidemic.

I spoke by phone with Janet Bleier, who said she and her husband are trying, with the help of Hollywood authorities, to figure out how the iguanas are getting in, but so far they’ve had no luck. I asked her if they ever encountered toilet iguanas when they lived in Long Island.

“Nope, nope, nope,” she said, adding, “nope.”

I asked her if they had considered moving back to Long Island, and she said they had not, but she added this: “We never, ever, walk into one of our bathrooms any more without checking. Even if we’re not going to use the toilet, we look.”

In case you think this epidemic is confined to Hollywood, I urge you to Google “toilet lizards.” You’ll discover that this has been going on for a while now, and not just in Florida; it’s happening in warmer climates all over the world.

So I repeat: The lizards are up to something. But what? Are they planning some kind of coordinated attack? Are we going to find ourselves in a real-life version of the classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller movie “The Birds,” in which suddenly, out of nowhere, a peaceful California village is terrorized by a huge, mysterious flock of violent toilet iguanas?

I don’t have the answers. As a journalist, all I can do is raise questions, in hopes of getting internet clicks and creating widespread panic. It’s up to the authorities to take whatever steps are necessary to end this crisis, even if that ultimately means relocating the entire population of South Florida to Long Island.

But for now we all need to do our part. This means keeping our toilet lids down, of course, but it also means standing up to the lizards and letting them know we’re not afraid of them, even though we actually are. The next time you encounter a lizard, either on the sidewalk or, God forbid, in your bathroom, look it straight in whichever eyeball is closest to you and tell it, in a firm, clear voice: “We know what you’re up to.“ If it’s a Mexican spiny-tailed iguana, you should say this in Spanish.

Also, if you have a dewlap, you should display it. They respect that.

Credit: The Miami Herald


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