Armed with a Hatsan air rifles, including the new PCP Big Bore Carnivore in .30 and .35 caliber, the iguana killers crew spent two days thinning the tree-top dinosaurs. And though they certainly put a dent in the immediate population, the sheer numbers speak to the massive problem that faces the island. As it stands, some studies suggest that iguanas outnumber humans by a margin of 2:1 in Puerto Rico, while the actual number is surely higher. With no natural predators and a government that is only beginning to realize the potential disaster on their hands, Puerto Ricans are left taking them out one-by-one. Fortunately for the group, this presented a target rich environment, and the perfect setting to put the Hatsan air-rifles through some use and abuse.
New from Hatsan, the PCP (Pre-charged Pneumatic) Big Bore Carnivore in .35 caliber was the firearm of choice on this trip. Capable of delivering the H&N Grizzly 85 grain lead hunting pellet (that’s the size of a 9mm folks) at speeds above 800 fps with a 50-yard range, the iguanas didn’t stand a chance. The trigger broke crisp and clean, providing a level of accuracy that took the shooters by surprise and iguanas by the tree-load.
An aggressive marketing ploy as well as conservation effort, these in-your-face shirts may seem a bit over the top, but when you hear about the destruction these lizards have caused since their introduction around 15-years-ago, you start to understand that tip-toeing around the issue simply won’t work. Puerto Rico needs iguana killers, and Hatsan marketed their air-rifles for just that purpose. Talk about a company that understands the needs of its market.
Arriving at the ranch outside of Ponce, Puerto Rico, shooters were able to get their first look at the critters they would be targeting over the next two days, the sight of which brought even more excitement to an already eager group. This male, the larger of the two, and female were shot the day before.
After getting acquainted with the lizards, it was time to meet the rifles. Hatsan supplied a number of .35 caliber Carnivore rifles as well as the smaller, yet equally deadly Galatian .25 caliber PCP guns. With pockets full shells, er, pellets, the group loaded into trucks and took off into the orchards. Though almost shaking in anticipation, the shooters had only an inkling of the hunt that awaited them.
Pulling up alongside the top of a ravine that dropped some 40 yards to the river bottom below, the party was let loose and told to look into the canopy to find their targets. At first glance the tree-tops seemed void of life. But closer inspection on a slight movement revealed the first few. Look for movement and tails, we were told, because like squirrels, iguanas will try to get on the far side of the branch or tree to hide, but their tails will give them away every time.
Once the group learned what to look for, iguanas appeared in mass. Shooting from atop the ridge, they cleared the canopy as best they could before making their way down to the river bottom jungle for more action. Shots ranged from a mere 5 yards into the canopy out to 50 yards across the river at a few big boys that the group couldn’t pass up.
Once on the river bottom, the smart hunters stayed close to the eagle eyed ranch manager. Though his English was poor (book-on-tape quality compared to the group's Spanish) when he motioned for you and pointed to the trees, you knew instantly that a big specimen had been spotted and hustled his way for a chance at a prize tail.
Grilled Iguana. Once on the table it looked like anything else coming off of the grill, delicious. And as for the taste, yes, a bit like chicken, a bit like frog legs. If you’ve had gator, you’re in the ball park. While locals have yet to really accept iguana as a food source, in South America they are considered a delicacy. Let’s hope it catches on, for the island's sake.
This is a single, lone tree located outside the ranch grounds in the front yard of a humble home. The abundance of iguana in this tree alone have made it near impossible for the homeowner to grow any type of crop on the small acre of ground it sits on. After begging the hunters to help, near 50 lizards were shot from its branches.
In a little over 15 years, Puerto Rico’s iguanas have gone from a few released animals in an isolated area to a population that has spread around the entire coast and now moves inland. Iguanas burrow to lay eggs, destroying roads and collapsing the foundations of buildings and pools. They are pushing the native lizards out while competing for a limited food source. Their sheer size is enough to dissuade any potential predators, like the few raptor species that sail above. For local farmers, it’s not just their appetite for budding fruits and flowers that poses a problem for pollination, but their mere existence in a fruiting tree almost always means a loss of produce as their abrasive tails cut and slice fruit rendering them damaged goods.
Puerto Rico. Home to fruit-filled rum drinks, beautiful beaches, dense tropical forests and millions of destructive, non-native lizards that are wreaking havoc on infrastructure and agriculture. We are, of course, talking about the iguana—which is what brought Associate Editor Jon Draper to the island paradise in mid-May, armed with a Hatsan air rifle.