The night the iguanas fell: Cold snap chills Florida, and lizard meat is up for sale

The forecast verified.

Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Miami issued an unusual warning about cold-stunned iguanas falling from trees across South Florida.

Wednesday morning, reports and photos appeared of the reptiles lying on the ground:

“Verification of the @NWSMiami warning,” tweeted Eric Blake, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist, who included a photo of a stunned lizard on Virginia Key, Florida. “That boy ain’t going nowhere … young one couldn’t take it (might be dead).” 

Another photo of an iguana lying on the ground was taken in Oakland Park, Florida. 

Iguana meat, dubbed “chicken of the trees,” started showing up for sale on Facebook Marketplace overnight in South Florida, the Miami Herald reported.

“Mango season may be months away, but if you live in South Florida today, your trees may be ripe for the picking – of iguanas,” according to the Herald, which published the headline “Tacos, anyone? Iguanas are falling from trees, and people are selling the meat online.”

The temperature in Miami dropped to a nippy 40 degrees Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service, and the wind chill was in the mid-30s.

That’s the coldest Miami has been in more than nine years, the Weather Channel said. 

The cold should be short-lived: “After a frigid start to their Wednesday morning in Florida, where freeze warnings and wind chill advisories are in effect across all of the Sunshine State, a return to more typical weather is expected,” the weather service said. 

Low temperatures Wednesday night should be in the 50s, and highs Thursday are likely to rise into the 70s.    

As for the iguanas, the cold stunned but didn’t necessarily kill them.

“Iguanas are cold-blooded. They slow down or become immobile when temps drop into the 40s. They may fall from trees, but they are not dead,” the weather service said.

Iguana stunned by the cold in front of my house near West Palm Beach. Last pic has my flop for scale.

I figured I'd find him– he's a regular around my yard.

cc:@SurfnWeatherman@JimCantorepic.twitter.com/yDFne6UOv7

— Hank “Very legal and very good” Epton (@HankEpton)January 22, 2020

An invasive species in Florida, iguanas are native to Central America, tropical parts of South America and some Caribbean islands.

Iguanas are allowed as pets in Florida but are not protected by any law except anti-cruelty to animals. They’ve been in South Florida since the 1960s, and their numbers increased dramatically in recent years.

This could be a result of milder winters: “We’re going through multiple winters that are failing to get as cold as almost every winter did a few decades ago,” Weather Underground climate blogger Bob Henson said. “This is happening at the same time that iguana populations are multiplying across South Florida.”

Here they are! Cold stunned iguanas around Miami and Fort Lauderdale after the coldest air in 10 years! We hit the upper 30s in spots.#FallingIguanaspic.twitter.com/He8jqkjFo2

— Brandon Orr (@BrandonOrrWx)January 22, 2020

Contributing: The Associated Press