Intrepid iguana hunter Mike Kimmel has set his sights on ridding Florida of the green menaces — and claims he’s killed nearly 90 of the giant lizards in one day!
Kimmel, 33, who operates Martin County Trapping & Wildlife Rescue, has spent nearly a decade culling the invasive species, which is native to Central and South America and has plagued the Sunshine State since the early ’60s.
The hired gun patrols municipalities, golf courses and residential properties with his canine sidekick, Otto, and targets the rampaging reptiles.
And the pro trapper says the biggest one he’s ever bagged was an astonishing six feet long and weighed a whopping 18 pounds!
Adult iguanas can lay up to 70 eggs a year, have no natural predators in Florida and create massive, interconnected burrows, which undermine roadways and property.
“Because they dig huge tunnel complexes, iguanas regularly move into ground nesting areas used by South Florida’s endangered species, such as burrowing owls and gopher tortoises,” he adds. “That’s a real problem for those prized native animals.”
Plus, Kimmel says the nuisances “poop everywhere, they stink, and they contain salmonella — so it’s a health issue.”
The wildlife wrangler also regularly guides clients — who pay $1,000 each to hunt iguanas on public canals using specialized .30 caliber air rifles — for what he calls “a day of environmental cleanup.”
Kimmel says a “typical harvest” for a guided hunt is 20 to 50 lizards.
And two-year-old Otto — a German wirehaired pointer, specially trained to be an iguana retriever — fetches the shot critters, who don’t always go down easy!
“A big iguana uses its muscular tail to whip an adversary, and he’ll bite and claw,” says Kimmel.
“They try to bite Otto’s ears when he chomps down on them. But he’s learned to shake them and kill them fast.”
Still, Kimmel insists the dead animals don’t go to waste. The iguanas’ hides are turned into leather, their heads and claws become trinkets for tourists — and he regularly eats and sells their “delicious” meat!