Trappers prowl south Florida for iguanas to capture and sell

Crouched atop a small wooden boat, Kevin Chandler cruises through a Broward canal. He searches for prey in the dark, with a small light wrapped around his forehead. A Newport cigarette hangs from his mouth.

''There, Kev. Two-footer right there. Do you see it?'' whispers his boss, Ray Van Nostrand, as he steers the boat.

Chandler's spotlight bobs up and down. And there it is, his target: an unsuspecting green iguana.

The well-chronicled surge in the iguana population has made things much easier for reptile sellers. No longer are they forced to journey to Colombia or Guatemala to find the prettiest scaly creatures, like Van Nostrand's father did. All it takes is a trip along local waterways, where mansions meet mangroves.

There, they lurk in the night to steal a creature some contend shouldn't be there anyway.

Just how profitable these trips will be might change if the Broward County Commission continues to push for a special classification for iguanas. The designation would lump them with Burmese pythons and anacondas, requiring Florida buyers to microchip them and pay a $100 annual fee. The commission is set to consider the issue later this month. The goal is to make regulations so stiff that few pet shops would want to order them and fewer people would want to buy them.

Both sellers and owners agree that too many buyers think the baby lizards will always be docile and easy low-maintenance. But when the lizards grow to seven feet, some owners release them into the wild. Iguanas can breed up to 90 eggs a year, spiking their population exponentially.

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