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If You Want to Catch an Iguana Do Not Grab It By the Tail

How to catch an iguana

“Hurry up, come help us.”

“What happened?”

“There is an animal.”

“What animal? Where?”

We plunged on foot towards my sister-in-law’s room. She stood at the foot of her bed looking at the night table in front of her.

“What is this?”

“It’s an Iguana. A big one.”

“Where is?”

“Under the dinner table. Look, there’s the queue.”

It certainly was. A loop of striped green and black tail extended down the side of the nightstand. I thought there was an 18 inch long beast hiding at the end of it. I reached down, grabbed the tail as close as I could. Then I learned an important lesson.

If you want to catch an iguana don’t catch it by the tail.

The Green Iguana

The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana rhinolopha) has a range of habitats from the southern regions of the USA south through most of Central and South America to Brazil and Paraguay. They also inhabit many of the Caribbean islands. Green iguanas are easily recognized by their green to dull brown body with a black and green or brown striped tail that extends about twice the length of their main body. There are spines along their backs that run from the top of the head over the nose to the length of the tail. Excellent climbers and fast runners, they have five long, thin toes on each foot with sharp, curved spikes that can sink into wood and plastic or grip rough surfaces. If you get scratched deeply by one, profuse bleeding and an infection is almost imminent. Their short, sharp teeth can deliver a painful bite.

Considered mainly herbivorous eaters, in some cases they are also known to feed on a variety of insects and small creatures. Fruit and vegetable scraps, corn and fleshy plants and leaves make up a large part of its diet. Older adult iguanas may hiss or click when they are angry, annoyed, stressed, or trying to attract a mate. Females tend to be much smaller but less brightly colored than males. In the spring, female iguanas lay an average of 25 to thirty or more white, leathery-shelled eggs that are about an inch and a half long.

Iguana: A tasty but controlled species

While in many areas of its habitat, green iguanas are a controlled species, they are also quite tasty when cooked and are a common table food on some Caribbean islands. Red meat has a mild flavor and smooth texture. In case you’re wondering, no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. It is often cooked in soups or stews. When available, eggs are also steamed whole in the shell or placed in the boiling stew to cook. Where it is popular in densely populated areas, there are strict controls on harvesting iguanas for food. Eggs command a particularly high price due to their scarcity once a year, but a large adult can fetch a hefty fee. Over twenty-five to forty dollars or more for an adult egg-bearing female is common. Live adult males one meter (three feet) long or more weighing in the neighborhood of five kilograms (seven or eight pounds) will also sell quickly. The species is said to have reached six and a half feet in length (two meters) with a weight exceeding twenty pounds (9 kg).

Finally catching a one meter long lizard

Bring me my towelI asked looking at the situation.

I had caught the tail near where I thought the body would be, planning to raise the nightstand and pull the captured beast from underneath. That’s when the iguana played its trump card. The tail flapping and twirling wildly, snapped just above where I caught it. The lizard then slithered past me under the bed. I uttered one expletivehe then hauled the wriggling tail out of the room to the screams of onlookers.

It’s alive! It’s alive!” they screamed in unison. I didn’t bother to explain that this was a normal reflex action of the reptilian nervous system.

A few minutes later, twisted and his vision blocked by the fabric over his eyes and head, he was pinned between a nightstand and the wall. Thus coiled, plucking the four-pound female, bloated with eggs, from its position was easy. With its legs tied to immobilize the thrashing lizard, it went into a five-gallon bucket with its still-wriggling tail until we figured out what to do with it. I was especially wary of its terrifying inch-long claws and gaping mouth with rows of needle-sharp teeth.

So remember, if you want to catch an iguana, don’t catch it by the tail.

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