The gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) is one reptile that comes with its own mythos. This species has been widely feared in the southwest, and as a consequence, many interesting (often hilarious) myths have sprung up concerning this species, including the idea that their very breath is toxic! Gila monsters are one of only two venomous lizards in the world, the other being the closely related beaded lizards (Heloderma horridum). As such, many states limit the keeping of this species, so check with local laws before purchasing captive bred gila monsters.
Ten Facts about Gila Monster
- It has black, orange, pink or yellow broken blotches, bars and spots, with bands extending onto its blunt tail. Its face is black, and it has small, bead-like scales across its back.
- This species ranges in size from 9-14 inches (22-35 cm).
- They are found in Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of extreme southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southeastern California, Arizona and southwestern New Mexico into Mexico.
- Desert and semiarid regions of gravelly and sandy soils with shrubs. Found under rocks, in burrows of other animals and in holes it digs itself.
- Gila Monsters mate throughout the summer months, with the female laying 3 to 5 eggs in sandy soils, burrows or under rocks, during fall or winter.
- The Gila monster feeds primarily on bird and reptile eggs, and occasionally upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, insects, and carrion.
- The Gila monster eats infrequently (only five to ten times a year in the wild), but when it does feed, it may eat up to one-third of its body mass.
- The Gila monster may live up to 20 years in the wild, or 30 in captivity.
- Sexually matures at 3-5 years.
- The male initiates courtship by flicking his tongue to search for the female's scent. If the female rejects his advances, she will bite him and crawl away.