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Gila Monster

Click For Hi-Res or Alternate ImageSCIENTIFIC NAME: Heloderma suspectum

DESCRIPTION: The Gila Monster is the largest lizard native to the United States, reaching a size of around 580 mm from snout to vent, and weighing around 400-900 g. Gila Monsters have a large head, stocky limbs, and a fat tail. Male Gila Monsters have wider heads than females. Coloration often consists of a yellow, pink, or orange body with black banding or reticulations. Their body is made up of bony, bead-like osteoderms. Juveniles are usually white or faint pink, with black banding or reticulations. Color often darkens with age. All Gila Monsters have a forked, black tongue. [Gila Monster data provided by Zach Price]
BEHAVIOR: Gila Monsters are very secretive, with surface activity adding up to around three to four weeks a year. They spend most of their life, up to 98%, underground in burrows, mammal nests, or crevices, often in or around washes. Gila Monsters can be both diurnal and nocturnal, mostly depending on weather and temperature. Gila Monsters are very slow moving and only become defensive if frightened or touched. Venom is chewed in from small grooves in their teeth. Bites are extremely painful, but there are no confirmed human fatalities. Males fight aggressively for females or territory, which can last for several hours. Females lay a clutch of around 13 eggs in the summer. Hatchlings are usually seen the following spring.
DIET: Gila Monsters raid nests to eat the eggs of birds and reptiles, and they also eat baby birds and mammals. Their thick tail stores fat from food. Four to five meals can sustain enough fat for a year.
WARNING: This animal is venomous and bites may cause injury or death. If encountered it should be left alone.
PROTECTION: This animal is protected in the State of Arizona. It is against the law to harass, harm, pursue, kill, trap or collect this animal, or to attempt or engage in such conduct.

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