6-Foot Iguana Shot With Crossbow Rescued in Florida

The animal was shot several times and needed emergency surgery upon arrival at a wildlife center.

A green iguana was brought to the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale yesterday with major injuries after being shot multiple times with a crossbow.

The iguana, an adult male they nicknamed “Godzilla” who is six feet long and weighs 10 pounds, was shot five times with arrows, one of which was embedded in its abdomen, and had multiple puncture wounds as a result.

Debra Parsons-Drake, the center’s executive director, says the iguana was found by a man who has a permit to hold wildlife overnight and get them to centers that could help them.

“He found the animal with the arrows sticking out and he took the animal to Flamingo Gardens, a wildlife sanctuary near us,” she said.

When staff there tried to remove the arrows from his body, they realized how extensive the damage was. They reached out to the South Florida Wildlife Center, an affiliate of the Humane Society, because Flamingo Gardens didn’t have the resources needed to properly care for the iguana. The South Florida Wildlife Center handles about 12,000 animals per year, making it the largest wildlife hospital, trauma center, and rehabilitation facility in the U.S.

When the iguana reached the wildlife center, veterinarians sedated the animal and performed surgery to remove the remaining arrows. He is now recovering, but Parsons-Drake said the prognosis is guarded: the extensive damage means a risk of internal bleeding and infection.

Related: Why This Invasive Lizard Is Bad For Puerto Rico

Over the past few years, Puerto Rico has been dealing with an exploding iguana population. Originally brought to the island as pets, the lizards now outnumber people and are wreaking havoc on agriculture, infrastructure, and even air traffic, causing millions of dollars in damages.

“Somebody had to have taken this animal and used it for target practice,” she said.

Cruel Cases

While Parsons-Drake said this is the first case the center has seen of an iguana with crossbow injuries, the facility had eight iguanas brought in over the last year that were suspected cases of animal cruelty. Only two survived.

“Less than 20 percent of the cruelty cases we get in survive,” she said, referring to all species. “People are shooting animals with pellet guns, they’re stoning them…One [iguana] recently had been hog tied and a portion of one of his limbs had been amputated.”

Godzilla is currently stabilized, hooked up to a heart monitor, and resting in a small container under a heat lamp. While he reacts fearfully to humans, which suggests his mental facilities are functioning well, says Parsons-Drake, the center’s staff still isn’t sure how his physical movements will be impacted by his injuries. It will take a week or so before it’s clear if he can be rehabilitated and released.

Nonnative Species

The wildlife center doesn’t often see reptiles and amphibians, which make up six percent of the animals they take in. When they get an iguana, Parsons-Drake says it’s usually because it has been hit by a car, caught in a fence, or caught by a dog.

Iguanas are considered an invasive species in Florida and can live up to 20 years in the wild. Because they are not a native species, they are classified as “exotic unprotected wildlife” under Florida law, meaning they can be caught legally by live traps to remove them humanely from a person’s property. However, they are still protected by the state’s anticruelty laws.