Researchers seeking to curb the iguana invasion in South Florida settled on one method, primarily: Smashing in the reptiles' heads, quickly.
“Most of what we’re doing is blunt force trauma,” Jenny Ketterlin, a University of Florida wildlife biologist, told The Sun Sentinel. “Hitting their head very hard against a solid object.”
The solid objects include the side of a truck used to track down the creatures. They've hit them hard against a boat, too. They also have a bolt gun, like the ones used to kill cattle. But mostly it's the head bashing.
The 15-person team from the university had killed about 250 of the lizards as of last week,The Sun Sentinel's Susannah Bryan reported, with researchers analyzing them at a lab before dumping them at a landfill.
It's part of a $63,000 project funded by the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Iguanas, an invasive species, gobble up native plants and add to erosion, a spokeswoman told the newspaper
Eric Swalley, a resident of Davie, Fla., put it more bluntly: "It's a biological nightmare."
While the head-cracking tactics of the researchers sparked criticism — "appalling," a director of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy told Gizmodo — experts claimed a quick head whack is relatively humane.
Head smashing abides by Florida's anti-cruelty laws, Ketterlin told The Sun Sentinel. Another wildlife biologist, Joe Wasilewski, approved of the method in an interview with Gizmodo, noting that the "in less than a second these lizards go from being cognizant to completely dead."
Scientists can't explain the state's booming iguana numbers, Wasilewski said, though he suggested climate change or shifts in vegetation may be to blame.