Lizards are falling from the sky and sea turtles are washing onto land as temperatures plunge in Florida, where snow fell in the capital Wednesday for the first time in nearly three decades.
Is it the end of days? Nah. It’s just incredibly cold and these poor creatures are as sick of it as everyone else affected by the chilly conditions.
But iguanas can’t don scarves or Canada Goose coats, nor can they regulate their own blood temperatures, like mammals can, when the mercury dips.
The invasive lizards aren’t naturally found in Florida but have flourished there over the last couple of decades thanks to careless pet owners and the state’s balmy weather.
However, as sometimes happens in The Sunshine State, this week’s lows of around 40 degrees as far as South Florida left the non-native iguanas, in a word, stunned.
So stunned that they began raining down from the trees as they lost control of their limbs and froze up in what looked to residents like their final acts before littering backyards, motionless.
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino was among the South Florida residents who witnessed the bizarre sight.
“The scene at my backyard swimming pool this 40-degree South Florida morning: A frozen iguana,” Cerabino tweeted, along with a photo of the lizard.
The historic weather has affected native species, as well. When the water temperatures drop, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water on or near shore, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive. It is important to report these turtles to the FWC as soon as possible.
“Our staff, partners and permitted volunteers are already working to rescue sea turtles in northwest Florida,” said Kipp Frohlich, director of FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Nearly 100 turtles have been rescued so far. We are also monitoring the Mosquito Lagoon and other areas of the state to see if sea turtles are being impacted there.”
Mammals aren’t immune, either, as the Florida manatee is another species that can be impacted by extreme cold weather. When water temperatures drop, manatees gather in warm-water habitats such as discharge canals at power plants and natural springs.
The FWC is asking boaters to be extra vigilant in watching for manatees in shallow waters near the coast, both inland and coastal, and obey all posted manatee speed zone signs.
“Boaters should avoid areas where large numbers of manatees are gathered,” said Gil McRae, head of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “Aggregated animals should not be disturbed, as this could cause them to leave the warm-water sites that help them cope with cold temperatures.”