Key West police pulled over a car bounding erratically across U.S. 1 on its way to Miami from Key West. The police officer pulled over the vehicle after observing it veer suspiciously. Upon inspection of the vehicle, police uncovered 311 iguanas, hundreds of geckos and other large reptiles, as well as dozens of snakes, and one cranky mid-sized crocodile alligator. 

The officer asked for back-up from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, who collected over 700 of animals from the car, which is far more reptiles than the average Florida driver has on them at any given time. The owner of the vehicle said he had no idea the reptiles were in there, insisting that they must have snuck in when he wasn’t looking. 

It turns out animal stowaways are far more widespread than most would believe. Reptiles tend to get in through holes left from rusty floorboards, as well as extra spaces left by customization work done on vehicles used in drug trafficking. Some lizards are simply let in by the elderly or others who take too much time in closing their doors.

Once inside, reptiles can wreak havoc on the vehicles, and can pose a serious safety risk if they pop out and scare the drivers. Many frightened drivers slam on brakes or execute what visitors have dubbed ‘the Miami veer.’ The discovery of the animals frequently leads to accidents. 

“It’s a bit like that scene in Jurassic Park, the one where Newman discovers a spitting dinosaur snuck into his SUV,” remarked the FWC official. Other times, trespassing reptiles can square off against another animal or small children in the car. The official recounted fights between iguanas and geckos, lizards and mice, rats and snakes, and on one occasion a tegu was arrested after attacking a black lab on his way to the vet.

“We’re going to see more of this,” the FWC official noted. “Miami’s highways are a moving menagerie.”

Sean Goforth

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