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Gila Monster

Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) is a unique venomous lizard only found in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico.They have bright yellow, orange, or pink and black markings along their bead-like scales. They are one or two venomous lizards found in Northern America. Unlike snakes which inject venom, the Gila monster bites down with its teeth and begins a chewing motion to secrete and distribute its neurotoxic venom into the wound. As you can imagine these bites are extremely painful to humans, but there has never been a reported human death.  

Gila monsters are well adapted to the harsh environment of the Mojave. They spend up to 95% of their time in underground burrows. They can survive months between meals by storing fat in their robust tails. They leave their burrows only to feed and occasionally to bask in the sun. They are master scavengers and consist on a diet mainly of eggs stolen from nests, newborn mammals, carrion, frogs, and insects. They hunt through their sense of taste, and smell. Using powerful jaws, and biting motion they release a powerful neurotoxin into their prey’s bloodstream that disrupts the nervous system.

Gila monsters have very few natural predators. Habitat destruction is the largest threat to this fascinating species. They are considered near-threatened on the Endangered Species Act. 

gila monster, American desert lizard with orange and black pattern