Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spike the Iguana

Originally posted on my website 11/17/08

Yesterday Woodrow and I decided to take a trip to Lakes Park and have a little picnic. Wouldn't you know, we decided for once not to bring either of our cameras, so we do not have any photos of the following event...

We arrived at Lakes Park around 2:00 PM, and found that a new Train Station area had been added over by the bridge. We decided to head over to the bridge, and sat at a picnic table near the boat ramps. It was a cool day, almost a little too cool without a jacket. As we sat and ate our subs, a man walked by, heading back from the boat ramps. "There's an iguana over there!", he said as he walked by. "A big one! About five feet long!" We looked over at the last boat ramp, and sure enough we could make out a large iguana sunning itself on an overturned metal canoe.

After we finished eating, we ventured over to take a look at this big boy ourselves. We could get to within about fifteen feet of the iguana, as the boat ramp was chained off. He didn't look to us to be five feet, but Woodrow and I agreed that he appeared closer to four feet in length. He was a beautiful specimen, too! He looked very much like the guys here and here (but darker in color than the green iguana in the second picture). We watched him sun himself for awhile, and then we decided to walk along the bridge.

We would watch from a distance as others spotted the iguana that I came to think of as Spike, and everyone would ooh and aah at such a magnificent specimen. A short while later, while we watched, Spike decided he'd had enough of the gawking, and he slid off of the canoe and back into the lake. We scouted the lake, trying to get sight of where he'd gone, when I suddenly spotted him heading right towards the bridge we were on. Woodrow and I headed back down to the area where we'd eaten our lunch earlier, and we tried to spot Spike coming out from under the bridge on the other side. Nothing. I went over to the side where we'd last spotted him, looked down into the water and saw nothing, and went back to Woodrow again, looking again for some sign of Spike on the other side of the bridge. Still nothing. 

Just then we heard someone yelling out to us. It was the last group of people who'd been watching Spike down on the boat ramp. "He's on this side," they yelled to us. I went to the side of the bridge again and looked down. "Right there!" they yelled. "To your right!" I looked to my right, and right there, hanging onto the side of the bridge not five feet from me, was Spike. "And there's a gator under the bridge right there!" I couldn't see the gator, but that all made sense.

"Ahh", I said to Woodrow. "I'll bet the iguana saw the gator, and hopped up on the bridge for safety." We decided to hang around for awhile. After a few minutes, we decided to back off and give Spike some room to decide what he wanted to do. We went down the bridge and took up a spot about fifteen or twenty feet from Spike, where we could easily keep an eye on him but not crowd him. 

The other family who had told us about the gator under the bridge stopped by and spent time looking at Spike before moving on. Others stopped to see him, and I found myself beginning to get annoyed by everyone encroaching on his space. I told Woodrow that I was concerned for Spike's welfare. I worried that the gawking people may make him nervous and cause him to jump back in the water, and then he may get nailed by the gator.

At one point a woman came walking over to that edge of the bridge, and I told Woodrow, "Watch. She won't see the iguana at first, and when she does it'll scare the crap out of her!" We watched as she stood at the edge and looked down at the water. After a few seconds she looked over to her right, and jump back about four feet. Woodrow and I laughed, and she looked at us and laughed as well! We all sat around watching Spike for awhile, but the woman and her friend were staying far too close to Spike for my comfort.

While we watched, the gator came out of hiding and headed out to a position about twelve feet from Spike. The gator was probably only about five feet to Spike's four feet, but his powerful jaws would win out in a battle against Spike. Then he went under the water. Uh oh. I told Woodrow I was afraid that the gator was going to try to ambush Spike. We hung around for probably fifteen minutes or more, wondering where the gator had gone and whether Spike was out of the woods yet.

Then the gator resurfaced, not four feet from Spike. As he edged his way towards Spike, the woman was bent over the edge of the bridge watching the gator. I said to the woman, "Uh, I would back off right now. This gator is about to ambush the iguana, and that iguana is liable to run up onto the bridge to get away from him!"

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the gator went for Spike's tail, and Spike scrambled up the bridge onto the walkway, with the woman running backwards to get out of his way fast!

So now we spent another hour or so standing around watching people react to Spike as they walked by. More than a couple of times we had to WARN people who would have otherwise walked right on top of him. Who thinks to look down at the ground looking for giant iguana on their path?

At one point a couple of hispanic guys stopped to look and take pictures of Spike. One of the guys, as they were leaving, began sneaking up behind Spike and bent down and reached out, as if to grab Spike's tail. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," I warned the guy. "He is FAST, and those teeth are razor sharp. They'll take off a thumb in a second!" He jumped back at my voice and looked at me and smiled and nodded. All I got out of him was smiling and nodding. Perhaps he didn't speak English, but evidently my voice was enough warning to him to back off!

My anxiety for Spike continued as I worried whether people would harass him, or whether the stress of people may cause him to jump back in when the gator was still around. I worried that the people were jeopardizing his safety, but I couldn't hang around to watch any longer. It was time to head home. We had already been watching Spike for probably close to two hours.

I don't know whether Spike is new to Lakes Park or if he has been around there for awhile. It's the first that we've ever seen him or heard of him. But iguanas have become a big problem in areas of South Florida. I learned last summer that a cold snap will commonly leave unconscious iguana falling from trees and laying around on the ground. Now THAT would be interesting to see!

So that was our interesting day at Lakes Park! 




Jennifer Juniper said...

What a fun story!!! It kept me spellbound as I dreamed of warm weather, it's snowing and 22 degrees outside my window!