Gila Monster

The Gila Monster is a large, stout lizard with short legs and a relatively short tail. They are surprisingly good at climbing rock terrain even with their short legs. The body is black with yellowish, orange, and occasionally pink patterns. They have beaded bones called osteoderms that give them their bumpy appearance. They are one of only a few venomous lizards in the world, and luckily that venom is used primarily for defending themselves from predators.
SCIENTIFIC NAME
Heloderma suspectum
CLASSIFICATION
Reptile
LIFE SPAN
10-20 Years
SIZE
18-24 ” | 2-4 lbs
STATE CONSERVATION STATUS
  • Priority Species
  • State Protected
FEDERAL CONSERVATION STATUS
Near Threatened
GAME STATUS
Non-Game
  1. Washoe
  2. Humboldt
  3. Pershing
  4. Churchill
  5. Mineral
  6. Lyon
  7. Douglas
  8. Carson City
  9. Storey
  1. Elko
  2. Lander
  3. Eureka
  4. White Pine
  1. Esmeralda
  2. Nye
  3. Lincoln
  4. Clark

Habitat & Range

The Gila Monster is usually found in rocky desert scrub habitats and semi-desert grassland. They use features such as rock crevices, boulders, burrows, and packrat middens.

  • Desert Washes
  • Mojave desert
  • Warm desert riparian

Threats

  • Habitat Degradation
  • Habitat Fragmentation
  • Habitat Loss

Natural History

Gila Monsters are not an easy animal to find as they spend most of their time underground in burrows. They dig their own burrows with their long, sharp claws, but will also occupy burrows dug by other desert dwellers.
Although they are called monsters, their diet consists mostly of eggs from other lizards and birds, and young rodents. They are slow-moving predators, so their prey needs to be slow as well. Gila Monsters are one of just a few venomous lizards in the world, however their powerful jaw strength, not venom, is used to kill their prey.
Water availability is critical in the desert and Gila Monsters are often found outside of their burrows during a spring or summer rainstorm. They can survive long periods without food by storing extra fat in their tails. They are long-lived reptiles that lay clutches of about 12 leathery shelled eggs. These eggs are incubated underground, and when they hatch they look just like a miniature version of an adult Gila Monster.

Fun Facts

Gila Monsters are the only venomous lizard native to Nevada. They do not have fangs that inject venom, like a rattlesnake, but instead have specialized grooved teeth that deliver venom to their victims through a chewing action. Because Gila Monsters can store fat in their tails, they can go months in between meals.