Iguana cullers seek looser air gun rules

Hunters, like Herman Myrie, culled more than 14,000 iguanas in a week-long trial in 2016.

Environment officials are in talks with police in an effort to relax Cayman’s gun regulations in order to fast track new air-rifle permits for an islandwide cull of invasive green iguanas.

Police have already committed to amending existing air gun licenses to allow cullers to use their weapons in public areas, according to Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment.

But the DoE is also hoping police will create a fast track permitting system to allow new people to be registered for the cull, which will start next month and could involve as many as 100 hunters.

She said many current air gun licenses contained conditions restricting on where they can be used, which would be problematic for the cull, which requires registered iguana hunters to go wherever they can find the invasive lizards.

“We have had conversations with the police and we intend to continue that dialogue,” said Ms. Ebanks-Petrie.

“We have had a commitment from them to fast track amending the licenses of those people who already have air gun licenses in a way that would allow those people to use those air guns effectively against green iguanas.”

Conditions the DoE would like to see amended include restrictions on shooting in residential areas, in people’s yards or within 40 yards of a public road.

Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said officials were also talking to police about the possibility of speeding up the process of granting new licenses for cullers.

“There is also a discussion that if new people wanted to get licenses, whether they would be prepared to have a licensing scheme that is responsive to the time frame we are running this project in.”

She said the discussions were in the early stages and the DoE hopes to meet with police leaders over the next few weeks to see what can be achieved.

The DoE aims to register private companies and individuals to take part in a multi-year cull that aims to remove 1.4 million green iguanas from the environment by the end of next year.

Though some hunters use dogs or nooses, a large number use air rifles, which are considered one of the best methods for targeting iguanas.

Fred Burton, head of the DoE’s terrestrial resources department, said there had been enough expressions of interest from businesses in the cull during a recent request for information process to suggest that the 1.4 million target was achievable even without the granting of new firearms licenses.

“If we take the RFI at face value, the quota is oversubscribed,” Mr. Burton said. “There are people who say they can cull well more than 1.4 million iguanas in total. Of those, a subset are contingent on them being able to get new air-rifle licenses and some of them have quite long lee times because they expect that process to take a long time.

“Our gut feeling is that pretty much regardless of new license fast tracking arrangements this can still work. The variations to existing air rifle licenses are going to be important because that really does make a difference.”

The DoE is currently looking for a private company to manage and run the cull. According to Ms. Ebanks-Petrie, the company will be expected to “have public liability insurance sufficient to cover the level of risk” associated with managing a large number of cullers, many of whom will be using weapons on a daily basis.