Florida, the Sunshine State, is not just a paradise for sun-loving humans, but also for a wide variety of lively lizards. From the tiny green anoles to the large and imposing iguanas, these cold-blooded creatures can be found basking in the sun all over the state. Whether you're a resident, a visitor, or a lizard enthusiast, this guide will help you understand and appreciate these fascinating creatures.
Meet the Locals
The Green Anole
This small, bright green lizard is a common sight in Florida. They are known for their ability to change color depending on their mood, temperature, or environment. Don't be surprised if you see one turn brown right before your eyes!
Green anoles are arboreal creatures, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. They are also territorial, so if you see one puffing up its dewlap (the flap of skin under its neck), it's probably trying to defend its turf.
The Brown Anole
Originally from Cuba and the Bahamas, the brown anole has made itself at home in Florida. They are larger than their green cousins and are known for their aggressive behavior. Brown anoles are also excellent climbers, so don't be surprised if you see one scaling a wall or fence.
Unlike the green anole, the brown anole prefers to stay closer to the ground. They are often found in gardens and shrubs, hunting for insects and spiders.
These large lizards are a common sight in South Florida. Iguanas are not native to the state, but have established a significant population. They are known for their striking appearance, with a row of spines down their back and a powerful tail they can use for defense.
Iguanas are herbivores, feeding mainly on leaves, flowers, and fruit. They are excellent swimmers and can often be found near water.
Observing Lizards Safely
Respect Their Space
While it can be tempting to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures, it's important to remember that they are wild animals. Always observe from a distance and never attempt to touch or handle a lizard without proper training.
Remember that lizards can bite or scratch when they feel threatened. It's also worth noting that some lizards, like the iguana, can carry salmonella, a type of bacteria that can cause illness in humans.
Don't Feed the Lizards
Feeding lizards can cause them to become dependent on humans for food, which can disrupt their natural behavior and diet. It can also encourage them to approach humans, which can lead to conflicts.
Remember, lizards play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations. Let them do their job!
Fun Lizard Facts
Lizards are ectothermic, which means they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. That's why you'll often see them basking in the sun, especially in the morning when they need to warm up.
At night, lizards seek out warm places to sleep. In Florida, it's not uncommon to find a lizard snoozing under a porch light, soaking up the residual heat.
They Can Regenerate Their Tails
Many lizards, including anoles and iguanas, have the ability to drop their tails when threatened. This is known as autotomy. The dropped tail continues to wriggle, distracting the predator and allowing the lizard to escape.
But that's not the end of the story. Over time, the lizard will regrow its tail, although the new tail may not look exactly like the original.
Are lizards in Florida dangerous?
Most lizards in Florida are harmless to humans. However, they can bite or scratch if they feel threatened, and some, like the iguana, can carry salmonella. Always observe lizards from a distance and never attempt to handle them without proper training.
What should I do if I find a lizard in my house?
Don't panic! Lizards are not aggressive and will usually try to avoid humans. You can try to gently guide the lizard outside using a broom. If you're not comfortable doing this, consider calling a professional wildlife removal service.
Can I keep a lizard as a pet?
Some lizards, like anoles, can make good pets with the right care and environment. However, it's important to do your research and make sure you can meet the lizard's needs. Always buy from a reputable breeder or pet store and never take a lizard from the wild.
Florida's lizards are a fascinating and diverse group of creatures. From the tiny anoles to the large iguanas, these cold-blooded sunbathers add a touch of the exotic to the Sunshine State. So next time you're in Florida, take a moment to appreciate these amazing animals. Just remember to observe from a distance and respect their space!