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54 “Through the years we have seen a consistent decrease in their numbers, but what’s interesting is that there has been such a fluctuation in numbers in different age groups of iguanas.” For instance, during the 2011-2012 hunting period (the first year he came back), he eradicated approximately 1,600 adult iguanas, 900 juveniles and 800 hatchlings. Between 2012 and 2013 he took approximately 1,800 hatchlings, 700 juveniles and 300 adults. Between 2013 and 2014 he took only 250 adults and 550 hatchlings, but eradicated almost 1,000 juveniles. In April of this year the MTSBU met and Cera explained why the juvenile population is so much higher right now. During the time the USDA was put on the job, a large amount of females to put their eggs in the ground. “There were around 2,000 adults then,” he said, “around 2011. When you look at the numbers you can see how many adults were taken, but we had an explosion of hatchlings then. If they’re more than 12 inches long they’re considered a juvenile. When you look at the following year, the adult population stabilized to around 250 to 300. “You see the decrease in hatchling numbers, overall. We didn’t get 100 percent of the hatchlings when we first came back, we just made a large dent in the population. This year I’m anticipating a spike in adult animals, and for the hatchling and adult numbers to stay stable. After that, all the numbers should stabilize. The whole trick now is focusing on females, females, females.” Cera said the iguanas had been eating baby gopher tortoises and eggs, as well as anoles, small birds and bird eggs. Through the years Cera has also watched the island’s bird population get back to close to where it was prior to the iguana invasion. Prior to iguana eradication many indigenous birds were facing a serious decline. Cera explained that most of the food the larger prey birds used to eat on the island was eaten instead by the iguanas. “Now we are seeing more and more birds, including some types of hawks that haven’t been around for awhile. Those hawks will sometimes eat the juvenile iguanas,” he said. Originally from Mexico, the black spiny-tailed iguana is considered an invasive species. It is not native to the Florida ecosystem, and the omnivorous lizards can eat pretty much anything if their favorite foods are gone. Berries, flowers, even “human food” picnic leftovers have been found in iguana stomach contents. Eating our native species isn’t the only problem that these iguanas bring with them. On Gasparilla Island, iguana burrows are feared to undermine the dune system, as well as negatively impact native endangered species such as the gopher George isn’t just an iguana trapper. He is often called on to remove other animals, such as this baby alligator who was visiting The Island School grounds. tortoise. Since these animals are climbers, they have caused damage to homes and businesses by nesting in attics. They will also obsessively return to the their same territory if they are merely chased away, or trapped and taken somewhere else on the island. They show up in homes, even in commodes, eating precious flowers and leaving their “calling cards” in inappropriate places. “The hottest area for iguana activity is along the Trapper George Cera


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