Experts warn green iguanas could soon be found in Central Florida

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Florida is home to more non-native reptiles and amphibians than anywhere else on earth.

Zach Marchetti with the Brevard Zoo says the warm weather with very few cold spells makes the Sunshine state the perfect habitat for many such species.

“The same way that people from all over the country and all over the world come to Florida for the climate, animals like it here too,” he said.

VIDEO: 9 facts about tegus, the giant, invasive lizards living in Central Florida

Non-native animals in Florida are usually brought in accidentally through shipping or as pets that are released into the wild.

Many of those invasive species thrive in Florida’s subtropical climate.

While snakes like the Burmese python tend to be limited to South Florida, iguanas, specifically the green iguana, appear to be on the move.

WATCH: In less than 24 hours, SpaceX launches two rockets, but one explodes

“We have a good record of a breeding colony from Jensen Beach back from 2009,” Marchetti said.

Green iguanas, which have gained notoriety for falling from trees on cold nights, are not native.

The large lizards, which have been blamed for the destruction of mangroves in South Florida, could be adapting to northern Florida’s cold fronts.

READ: Stimulus check: Who is eligible for the $1,400 direct payment under the new Senate plan?

“We see them making use of burrows in a greater fashion than they would in their home habitat and most likely that is a result of having to have a place to get away from cold snaps,” Marchetti said.

With warmer than normal winters and a growing South Florida population, Marchetti says there may come a day when green iguanas could make it to Brevard County.

“It’s unlikely with our current weather and climate that we would see a large population of iguanas in Brevard county, but it’s not impossible,” he said.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, and click here to watch the latest news on your Smart TV.

Matt Reeser

Matt Reeser, WFTV.com

Matt Reeser joined WFTV in 1998 as a news photographer and has worked for television stations in Kentucky and West Virginia.