A Strange Iguana Experience

Yesterday afternoon I went out to putter around in the yard. When I looked across the street, this is what I saw.


My neighbor was watering an iguana! Of course I grabbed my camera and went over to see what was going on. It was very strange that the iguana was just sitting there. Usually, if they see a person, they are gone!


My neighbor said he thought the iguana was very hot out there in the sun on the dirt and needed some water. He was afraid a dog had gotten it and it was hurt. The iguana was missing the tip of its tail but otherwise, we couldn’t see any injuries. We were worried though about the dogs, so we decided to try and get the iguana into my fenced yard where it would be protected and safe.


I came over with a trash can, put it in front of the iguana and used my shoe to try and coax it into the can. It didn’t move a bit! I figured if it was that inactive I would take a chance and pick it up, which would be less traumatic than pushing it into the trash can. I gently picked it up, one hand under the chest and the other near the back feet and the iguana still didn’t move a bit!

I carried it across the street and by the time I got into my yard it looked back, opened its mouth, and tried to push its feet against my arm like it wanted to get away. (those claws are very sharp! I did get a scratch before I moved my arm out of range). I gently put the iguana on the ground next to my back terrace and left it alone. I still didn’t see or feel any evidence of injury except for the tail.


I came back a while later and it had moved about 8 yards into the back yard, but it was again sitting still and didn’t react when I came close.

When I came back to look again it had moved another 8-10 yards and was sitting under one of my banana trees. I got some papaya from my fridge and put it nearby, and again left the iguana alone. When I came back later the papaya was untouched and the iguana was nowhere to be seen.

My neighbors think the iguana was just stunned and would be fine with some time to regroup. It should be small enough to make it through our fence and into the woods if it wanted to leave. I was encouraged to see no visible injuries, and to see the iguana was able to move about the yard. Hopefully it’s doing better now and is back to living its normal life. It was very cool though to have it in my hands for a moment!

You just never know what is going to go on around here 😀

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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16 Responses to A Strange Iguana Experience

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have seen Iguanas play dead here when frightened or confronted. Most predators quickly lose interest in something that’s no moving. I would guess that happened here, maybe it then realized you were helping and that it was then safe to move away from the arm?


    • I was wondering about that. Maybe if it wasn’t able to run off, playing dead was the next best option until it got really nervous about being carried. I’ve seen other lizards freeze when frightened but never an iguana, so maybe I’ve learned something new about iguana behavior. Thanks for the comment 🙂


  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    My old neighbors around here are always nailing them for dinner.

    Iguanas are real pests around Fort Lauderdale where they dig burrows behind sea walls along the canals causing them to collapse. My roommate killed a big one behind a friend’s house by the seawall and brought it home and we made a stew out of it. There are lots of good iguana recipes on line. (This is NOT a joke, btw.)

    You know what? Chicken taste EXACTLY like iguanas. In fact there are places in the world that call them “Tree Chickens.”


    • I remember somewhere in SW Florida near us also had a huge iguana problem. They weren’t native and didn’t have enough predators to keep them in check, so hunting them was very encouraged. I have also heard that they are good to eat. I think Panama is concerned about the iguana population because they have been hunted so much for food. I’m not sure how much of a problem it really is though because there seem to be plenty of iguanas around here. I have seen someone behind our neighborhood though with a pellet gun trying to shoot one, I’m sure for their dinner.


  3. Kat McKay says:

    What a good sameritan you are! And brave. I did save s hummingbird the other day that had smacked into my window. He was also stunned and flew away after a few hours of resting.


    • I did try to stay out of biting range because I know they have sharp teeth. I just hoped it didn’t get a burst of energy when I picked it up and thankfully it didn’t. Good for you too with the hummingbird. It’s nice to help where we can and I’m sure your hummingbird appreciated it.


  4. The “Nurse Instinct” lives!


  5. You are an Iguana Whisperer. lol


    • Nah, I think it’s my neighbors. They are always feeding birds and wildlife, and being kind to whatever wanders through. Even the toucans don’t fly off any more when they see people. It’s the “safe zone” down here… well except for the dogs.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. JulieAnn Kehren says:

    Looking at the iguana in your pictures, it appears to be a female, and seeing the flattish belly on it, it could have emptied its cache of eggs. My iguana (same size as in your photo) would lay between 24 & 36 eggs at a time! I don’t know how she stored all of them inside, because she never looked “heavy”. She was usually exhausted after getting rid of the eggs, which makes me wonder all the more if this one had just finished pushing all those eggs out.


    • Oh wow, how interesting. Someone who follows me on Google said he thought it was a very pregnant female. It would make sense if she was exhausted from laying eggs though, that she would be so docile. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!


  7. What a great thing you did and saved another creature! I would have been afraid to pick it up because of their claws and teeth. Live harmoniously with God’s creatures 🙂


    • I was quite hesitant to touch it too, but when I pushed it with my shoe and it didn’t move at all, I thought it might not attack me. I still tried to stay out of reach of the teeth and claws though. Thankfully it all worked out well.


  8. Chris Richardson says:

    Wow, now that is something Kris. I remember when I was in Puerto Rico in the United States Marine Corps. I was on post at night and I saw some kind of a lizard. I said to myself, self your going to capture this BIG lizard. I put my gloves on and went for it. Then that BIG lizard opened it’s mouth and I saw them BIG sharp teeth, and I said ok my friend, you have the right away. I left that BIG lizard alone.


    • LOLOL Oh my, yes, that would have made me back off too! Iguanas don’t look like they have impressive teeth but I have heard that they can do some damage with them. Your lizard though, sheesh!


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