Gila Monster

Gila Monster       Heloderma suspectum

Type of Animal:

Desert, semi-desert, arroyos, valley washes, foothills, desert/semi-desert scrub, arid/semi-arid grassland, bushland, scrubland, oak woodland, desert/semi-desert w/ shrubs, rocky areas, burrows

Small parts of SE California, S Nevada, extreme tip of SW Utah, Arizona, extreme SW New Mexico, & Sonora in Mexico

Bead-like scales, strong forelegs/claws, black w/ orange, pink, or yellow, stout/stocky body, Banded subspecies have broad double crossband & light markings in unbroken band, Reticulate subspecies mottled & blotched, large head.

Small mammals, lizards, frogs, insects, carrion, eggs, birds, baby tortoises

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, wildlife parks, & breeding centers. Restrictions on private keeping.

Often found in groups of multiple males & females. Male combat helps trigger breeding & consists of wrestling/biting. Often found alone as well.

Additional Info:


Male-3 lbs
Female-1.5 lbs
Young-0.5 lb

4 months 

Life Span:
20-30 years

Body Length:
Male-1.5 ft
Female-1 ft
Young-9 in

Tail Length:
Male-3.6 in
Female-2.4 in
Young-1.8 in

Main predators are rattlesnakes, coyotes, raptors, foxes, mountain lions/pumas, bobcats, & roadrunners. Many animals eat the eggs.

Spend 95-98% of the time underground.

They’re very sluggish & only bite if provoked.

Venom produced in modified salivary glands in lower jaw & often chewed into victims w/ bulldog like tenacity. Venom may have evolved for defensive use.

Bright colors may serve as a warning.

Even though venom is highly toxic neurotoxin, it’s only produced in small amounts.

They emerge from hibernation in January/February & breed in May/June.

Only venomous lizard in the U.S.

Fun Fact(s):
Some myths are the animal’s breath toxic enough to kill people, that it can spit venom, & that it can leap several feet in air to attack.

Another myth is these lizards expel waste from mouth due to supposed lack of anus.

Official mascot of Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Arizona.

Apache believed this lizard’s breath could kill a person.

The Tohono O’Odham & Pima tribes believed the lizard could cause sickness.

The Seri & Yaqui tribes believed hide had healing properties.

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