Sanibel Will Have A Cold Christmas; Watch For Falling Iguanas

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Green Iguanas can enter a state of torpor or temporarily lose muscle control when it gets cold outside, which can cause them to fall from a tree. SC file photo by Kyle Sweet

Islanders will have a cold Christmas as the temperatures are expected to drop into the low 50s this weekend. A massive winter storm is blasting frigid weather across a large swath of the country and Sanibel will feel some of the cold. So, watch for falling green iguanas.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife say the non-native green iguanas, which are abundant on Sanibel, can enter a state of torpor, when they temporarily lose all muscle control, in colder temperatures and could fall from the tree. But they recover quicker than you might think, FWC said.

Chris Lechowicz, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Wildlife & Habitat Management Director and Herpetologist, says the green iguanas survived Hurricane Ian, the destructive storm that hit the island Sept. 28.

In fact, in the few weeks after the hurricane, they were the most common wildlife species visible on the island,” Lechowicz said. “The storm did not appear to affect them much, besides temporarily restrict their food source – vegetation. They come from areas where tropical storms occur so they are adapted to them.”

This massive winter storm will bring an onslaught of heavy snow, ice, flooding and powerful winds through Sunday from the Plains and Midwest to the East Coast. A surge of Arctic air will follow. The Christmas weekend could be the coldest in decades.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday the storm was so large and encompassing that around 190 million people are currently under some type of winter weather advisory.

The arctic front is forecast to spread bone-chilling cold as far south as Florida. Temperatures on Sanibel are expected to dip into the low 50s Christmas Eve day and fall to 40 degrees that night. Christmas Day will be much the same with an overcast sky.

The overnight lows will be cold enough to cause some iguanas to fall from the trees. “They are mostly from Central and northern South America, where it does not get this cold, so temperature appears to be the main limiting factor to their spread in Florida,” said Lechowicz.

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