Sunday, January 13, 2013

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

How to Catch an Iguana

"Hurry, come and help us."

"What happened?"

"There's an animal."

"What animal? Where?"

We plunged headlong towards my sister-in-law's room. She stood by the foot of her bed staring at the night table in front of her.

"What is it?"

"It's an Iguana. A big one."

"Where is it?"

"Under the night table. Look, there's the tail."

It sure was. A loop of striped green and black tail extended from under the side of the night table. I figured about an 18-inch long beastie was hiding at the end of it. I reached down, grabbed the tail as close to the front as I could. Then I learned an important lesson.

If you want to catch an Iguana do not grab it by the tail.

The Green Iguana

The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana rhinolopha) has a habitat range from the southern regions of the USA south through most of Central and South America down to Brazil and Paraguay. They also inhabit many of the Caribbean Islands. Green Iguanas are easily identified by their green to dull brown colored body with a black and green or brown striped tail which extends roughly twice the length of its main body. There are spines along their back extending from the top of the head above the nose down to the length of the tail. Great climbers and fast runners, they have five long, slender toes on each foot with sharp, curved nails which can sink into wood and plastic or grip rough surfaces. If you are deeply scratched by one, heavy bleeding and an infection are almost imminent. Their short, sharp teeth can deliver a painful bite.

Primarily regarded as herbivorous eaters, in some situations they've also been known to feed on a variety of insects and small creatures. Fruit and vegetable scraps, corn and fleshy plants and leaves make up much of its diet. Larger adult iguanas may hiss or make clicking sounds when angered, disturbed, cornered or attempting 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 which are about an inch and a half long.

Iguana: A Delicious but Controlled Species

While in many regions of its habitat Green Iguanas are a controlled species, they are also quite tasty when cooked and are common table fare in some Caribbean Islands. The red meat has a mild taste and smooth texture. In case you're wondering, no, It does not taste like chicken. Often it is cooked in soups or stews. When available, the eggs are also steamed whole in the shell or placed in the simmering stew to cook. Where popular in heavily populated areas, there are strict controls on the harvesting of iguanas as food. The eggs command an especially lofty price due to their once-per-year scarcity but a large adult can fetch a hefty fee. Upwards of twenty five to forty dollars or more for an egg-bearing adult female are common. Live adult males of one meter (three feet) or more in length weighing in the neighborhood of five kilos (seven or eight pounds) will likewise sell quickly. The species has reportedly reached up to six and a half feet in length (two meters) with weights exceeding twenty pounds (9 kilos).

Finally Catching a Meter-Long Lizard

"Bring me my towel" I asked while surveying the situation.

I had grabbed the tail up close to where I thought the body would be, planning to lift the night stand then haul the captured beastie out from under it. That's when the iguana played her trump card. The tail thrashing and wriggling frantically, broke off just above where I gripped it. The lizard then bolted past me sliding under the bed. I uttered an expletive, then carried the wriggling tail out of the room to the squeals of onlookers.

"It's alive! It's alive!" they shrieked in unison. I didn't bother to explain that this was an ordinary reflex action of the reptile's nervous system.

Minutes later, corralled and its vision shut off by the cloth over its eyes and head, it was pinned between a night table and the wall. Thusly wrapped, plucking the four pound female swollen with eggs, from its position was easy. Its legs tied to immobilize the thrashing lizard, it went into a five gallon bucket along with the still-wriggling tail, until we could figure out what to do with it. I was especially wary of the fearsome inch-long claws and the gaping mouth with its rows of needle-sharp teeth.

So just remember, if you want to catch an Iguana, do not grab it by the tail.

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