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Iguana eradication on Key Biscayne has been a hot topic for some time. But some islanders are tired of waiting for a hard freeze to thin out the reptile population and have begun taking a more lethal approach on their own -- air pellet guns, in particular. And as you would expect, not everyone looks at this form of eradication in the same favorable way.

We saw this recently when things got a little heated in a recent social media post. One neighbor accused the other of being less than accurate when shooting iguanas with an air gun -- pellets flying across the canal and onto her property. And let’s not forget the “school shooter” situation that we had in 2019, which turned out to be an air gun owner, shooting iguanas near the Key Biscayne K-8 Center.

Apparently, green iguanas were first sighted on Key Biscayne in the 1960s. Being an invasive species, they are not protected in Florida except by anti-cruelty laws. They can be humanely killed on private property year-round, with landowner permission. The FWC has wavered on the definition of “humane,”so hunters need to be careful.

Just remember that the minimum charge for animal cruelty is a first degree misdemeanor, which can be punished with a year in prison, a fine of $5,000, or both.

Actually, the FWC has backed off their July 2019 statement encouraging the killing of iguanas. After several air gun “incidents” (including a pool cleaner shot), the FWC was quoted as saying: “Unfortunately, the message has been conveyed that we are asking the public to just go out there and shoot them up. This is not what we are about; this is not the ‘Wild West.’ ”

In the state of Florida, an air gun is not legally considered a firearm or a weapon because the projectile is not expelled by an explosive. Anyone 16 or older can own air guns, including AirSoft, pellet and BB guns, without restriction. No licenses or permits are needed. But a county or municipality can consider an air gun a weapon (but not a firearm) and restrict its use.

Miami-Dade County Code only mentions air guns in Ch. 26, Park and Recreation Department: “No person shall carry, use or possess firearms of any description, air rifles or pistols, spring guns, bows and arrows, paint guns or any other form of weapon potentially inimical or harmful to wildlife or dangerous to human safety on or in any park area or property.”

And unlike our neighbors Miami Beach and Coral Gables, Key Biscayne does not seem to restrict the use of air guns in any way. But in the 2019 school incident, the village police did charge the greatly embarrassed iguana hunter with disorderly conduct. I am guessing that the charge could have been much worse if the circumstances were different – lucky man.

In summary, it might be legal to use an air gun on your private property in Key Biscayne to kill iguanas; BUT if that pellet falls outside of your property, then expect to be charged with at least disorderly conduct, possibly more. In addition, if someone films that iguana flopping around in your yard from a less-than perfect brain shot, then you could be charged with animal cruelty.

And I would not expect your homeowner’s or umbrella policy to cover the claims either -- so the neighbor’s pool cleaner that you accidentally shot might just end up owning your beautiful canal front home.

Robert Luttgen

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