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Last updated January 1, 2014

Iguanas Can Bite The Hand That Feeds Them

Lynda Lohr, St Thomas Source, St Thomas VI, 10/14/01


Oct. 11, 2001 - Thanks to restaurant patrons and hotel guests feeding them -- a violation of V.I. law, although most undoubtedly don't know it -- iguanas are becoming pests, according to a local naturalist.

Donna Griffin, an environmental specialist at the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, said handouts attract even more iguanas to an area that already cannot support the number that originally lived there. "They then become aggressive and territorial," she said.

She urged residents and visitors not to feed the creatures, so that "It will then be survival of the fittest." She also urged restaurant and hotel operators to post "Do not feed the iguanas" signs.

An iguana bit a customer not long ago at Molly Molone's, a dockside restaurant in Red Hook on St. Thomas's East End, but did not cause serious damage. "She was sitting here having breakfast, and an iguana jumped up and bit her on the arm, restaurant owner Frank Brittingham said. "I'm not sure if she was feeding it."

He said that the iguanas seem to be particularly aggressive during the warmer months of August, September and October, which he said is when they are breeding.

Brittingham said he asks his customers not to feed them

Although no studies exist to show their numbers, the iguana population has definitely increased in recent years, Griffin said, in part because the territory has had no substantial hurricanes in the last six years to destroy their habitat. That, coupled with restaurant meals, put them in good shape for breeding, she said, and "We have a healthy population."

She said it is against the law to feed iguanas, just as it is against the law to eat them, although some residents who hail from other islands do appear to like their taste. "We have to tell them they can't do that here," she said.

Griffin said that Fish and Wildlife has relocated some of the iguanas to its compound on Red Hook Road and to an offshore cay.

For more information on iguanas, call the Fish and Wildlife Division at 775-6762 on St. Thomas or 773-3540 on St. Croix.

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