Lizards are taking over where Hurricane Michael hit last year

‘It’s probably double what I remember’

Northwest Florida's local lizard takeover: Thank you, Hurricane Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP/Gray News) – Nearly a year ago, Hurricane Michael battered the Florida Panhandle, becoming the first Category 5 storm to hit the U.S. mainland since Andrew in 1992.

Michael literally changed the area’s landscape, wiping away sand dunes, trees and other vegetation.

And something else is new, too. Local folks are noticing more lizards than usual. The population is booming.

"My dog chases them,” said Lena Kharieh. “He chases them around the fence and stuff because they are just completely everywhere.”

Not only are there more lizards, but there are different types.

“It’s probably double what I remember from last summer, but also last summer, I remember … having the green ones as well,” said Kharieh.

The lizards are called anoles. They come in green and brown. The green anoles are native to northwest Florida, while the brown ones are an invasive species that originally came from the Caribbean decades ago.

When Hurricane Michael wiped out the vegetation, it took the shelter the green anoles depend on with it.

"People are going to see a lot more of the brown anoles now in their backyard, around their homes, because the green anoles which would have gone up higher, now don’t have anywhere to go,” said Kira Burdeshaw, the Reptiles Curator at the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida.

“We are finding that the non-native brown anoles are bullies and the green anoles will back off and they'll usually just move out of the area.”

Burdeshaw said the best way to help the local green lizards is to replace what the hurricane wiped out.

"Make sure you start planting more foliage, more trees, so that not only are we helping the green anoles, but we are also helping other species that need to reclaim habitat," she said.

The green lizards will thank you.

Copyright 2019 WJHG/WECP via Gray Television Group, Inc. All rights reserved.