Fairgoers wanna iguana!

The 2017 Adams County Fair was a fantastic event that showcased the hard work and efforts of countless men, women and children in our community. From the delightful 4-H projects to the amazing fairground renovations, comments were heard over and over again about what a great fair we had this year. Unfortunately, for a few small creatures, the Adams County Fair was merely another nightmare to endure before reaching the end of a life lived prematurely. This article is meant to help educate those individuals who took an iguana home from the
Adams County fair.

There are more than thirty-five different species of iguanas in the world. The species given out at the Adams County fair, known as the Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), comes from the lush forests of Central and South America. At about ten inches long, the iguanas at the fair were babies, but still require about a 55-gallon aquarium to live comfortably. They can live to be 10-12 years old in captivity. Male iguanas grow to be up to five feet long at maturity and weigh up to 9 pounds. Females tend to be slightly smaller; about four-and-a-half feet long and up to 5.5 pounds. Maximum size is usually reached in three to four years. Iguanas tend to grow rather slowly until they are about nine months old, then they put on a growth spurt, (if they are cared for properly).

Taking proper care of an iguana is not much more time-consuming than caring for a cat or dog, but if you are the parent of a child that brought a lizard into the family, you may find that care does becomes a chore when your child loses interest in the animal.  The most important aspects of iguana care are supplying a cage of proper size and design, maintaining proper temperature (especially during colder months of the year), giving access to sunlight, providing an adequate diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, (iguanas are vegetarians), and regularly trimming the animal’s toenails. “Hot rocks” or “sizzle rocks” are not recommended by experts to keep reptiles warm because they will eventually scald your pet.  Heat sources should be hung outside of the lizard’s cage to avoid burns. A forty-watt incandescent bulb hung a few inches outside of the cage can work well. Iguanas that are too cold suffer from poor immunity and their digestive system can shut down, leading to fermentation of food in their intestines and death.

In the wild, iguanas acquire all or most of their water through their food. Keep a dish of fresh, clean water in the iguana’s cage at all times, in case the diet you are feeding lacks adequate moisture. Try placing a large rock in the bottom of the water dish to help prevent spills. You may also mist the inside of the cage using a spray bottle.  Many iguanas enjoy licking the droplets off surfaces.

Iguanas are at risk of metabolic bone disease – just like humans – if they do not get adequate sunlight. If natural sunlight is not available, a full-spectrum UV light source is required. Some reptile foods contain supplemental Vitamin D-3. This supplement is still not enough to prevent disease without proper lighting from a natural or appropriate artificial source.

Iguanas need high humidity. Most homes are extremely dry, especially in winter. Iguanas need to have increased moisture in their enclosures to keep humidity levels at between 65% and 75%. Large, shallow pans of water, wet towels, and even decorative waterfalls placed inside the lizard’s enclosure can help keep humidity high.

Good foods to feed to iguanas are kale, collard greens, turnip tops, beet greens, mustard greens, dandelion, Chinese cabbage (bok choy), Swiss chard, hibiscus flowers, dandelion flowers, endive, sprouts, arugula, green cabbage, pea pods, watercress, and clover. Often the best outer portions of these vegetables are discarded by the grocery store. Consider contacting the produce department staff to request that they salvage the portions they discard.  Plenty of reputable websites exist on the Internet to conduct further research on iguanas and iguana care.

Though you may not have planned on having an iguana as a pet, with the basic knowledge of its needs, properly caring for an iguana can become a fascinating and satisfying project for both children and adults. Who knows?  Maybe you will discover you have found a perfect scaly companion.

If an iguana has joined your family and you realize that you will be unable to provide proper care for the animal, please contact Jessica Huxmann of the Humane Society of Adams County at 937-217-1622 for help re-homing your pet. Finding a new home for reptiles can take time, sometimes months. Please do not wait until the animal has reached the end of its welcome in your home to seek help.

For more information about the Humane Society of Adams County, please visit www.adamscountyanimals.org.