If you live in Florida, you’ve no doubt seen a bunch of lizards roaming around your yard. Some on fences and walls, some more brightly colored than others, and some that look like snakes. (But that aren’t.)
You have to wonder-
Are any of these lizards poisonous?
Do Any Poisonous Lizards Live in Florida?
Despite the over 50 types of lizard species that make their home in the Sunshine State, none of them are poisonous. However, this does not necessarily mean they are all safe.
Lizards do carry bacteria like salmonella on their skin, so even though they may not be poisonous (meaning toxic when eaten), they can still make you sick if you (or a child) puts one in their mouth.
Pets can get salmonella from lizards as well, though it’s much less likely.
Now, when it comes to lizards that have a poisonous (venomous) bite, that’s a bit of a different story.
Do Venomous Lizards Live in Florida?
No native Florida lizards are venomous, though there are a few invasive lizards that produce a mild venom.
These include the nile monitor and the iguana. Though these lizards are venomous, their claws, teeth, and aggressive nature are far more dangerous than their venom.
Only two species of lizards that are native to North America are known to be venomous, the Gila monster and the Mexican bearded lizard, and neither are found in Florida.
(In case you need a refresher, venomous means it has a poisonous bite – like a snake, poisonous means it’s harmful to try to eat it – like a poison dart frog.)
According to World Atlas, the Gila monster is the only one that is found in the United States. It lives in Southwestern states such as New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. Even though this lizard is venomous, its bite is rarely fatal.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t dangerous lizards in Florida, however. Especially with invasive species taking over.
Are the Lizards in Florida Dangerous?
While you don’t need to worry about a lizard bite being fatal, some lizards in Florida do have sharp teeth or strong grips that can be seriously painful if you are bitten.
The green iguana, for example, has sharp, serrated teeth that can cause injury. Bites from this familiar pet lizard are uncommon, and they will usually show warning signs if they feel threatened, according to Britannica.
Do stay away from them if you don’t know how to handle them, however, because they can develop a bad temper and can be dangerous under the right circumstances.
Monitor lizards, such as the Nile monitor, are larger, can be more aggressive, and may inject a mild venom.
The good news is that bites are avoidable because lizards will only bite if they feel threatened, and most of the smaller lizards you will encounter in Florida are not dangerous.
What About Lizards Who Have Bacteria in Their Mouths?
For a long time, it was believed that some lizard species, such as the Komodo dragon, used bacteria in their saliva to produce a venomous effect in their prey. However, according to National Geographic, recent studies have shown that bacteria is not the culprit; some lizard species do, in fact, release a mild venom. Yet as noted above, this is not fatal to humans.
If a lizard has invaded your home, one thing to be concerned about is the spread of the bacteria Salmonella. Salmonella can be found in lizards’ mouths and feces, and it can spread to the skin or surfaces they come in contact with. Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, according to the CDC.
What Should I Do If a Lizard Bites Me?
A wound from a lizard bite should be cleaned immediately with antibacterial soap and water. To prevent the transfer of bacteria, it is also a good idea to disinfect the area with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and apply antibiotic ointment.
Occasionally, a lizard’s teeth may embed in the wound, which can cause an infection. If a venomous lizard bites you, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Is It Safe to Touch a Lizard?
If you come across a wild lizard, you should avoid contact. Even though its bite will not be fatal, and most likely not venomous, it may still be painful.
It’s best to avoid touching a lizard because of potentially harmful bacteria that may be present on its skin. If you need to remove a lizard from your home, try to do so without touching it if you can.
We have house geckos (mediterranean geckos) that get inside quite often, and it’s easiest to get them out with an upside down hummus tub and a piece of cardboard to keep them from running away.
Larger lizards may be a bit more of a problem if they find a way inside.
Are Lizards in Florida Dangerous to My Pet?
If your pet eats a lizard, it might not cause any problems, but some lizards possess liver flukes that are harmful to cats or dogs who ingest the lizard. In addition, pets may be affected by Salmonella just like humans. If your pet shows symptoms such as vomiting, difficulty breathing, or lethargy, you should contact a vet.
Larger lizards such as the Nile monitor are more predatory and might go after a curious dog or cat. If your pet is bitten, thoroughly clean the wound to prevent infection.
Do Lizards Pose a Hazard to People In Florida?
Only about 15 species of lizard are native to Florida. The rest are labeled non-native invasive species.
While many lizards are beneficial to the ecosystem by eating pesky insects, others put native species at risk.
The Florida Times reported that iguanas dug burrows that caused millions of dollars in urban structural damage. People still love exotic lizards as pets, but many residents now consider them to be pests.
By and large, there aren’t any lizards in Florida that pose any serious risk to you. Other than some of the large, aggressive invasive species, the most you have to worry about is washing your hands to avoid salmonella.