Status Near threatened
Size Up to 55cm
Gestation 6-8 months
Young 3-13 eggs (3-5 is more common)
Life span up to 20 years in the wild, around 30 years in captivity
Gila (hee-la) monsters hunt other animals for food, including young birds and eggs, rodents, smaller lizards and also carrion (dead animals). The Gila monster has sharp teeth and also uses venom to kill prey. It will hold on to its victim and bite down many times to release its venom through grooves in its teeth.
These animals prefer arid or dry habitats such as desert grassland, scrub and rocky mountain foothills. They are found in north-western Mexico and south-western areas of the United States.
The breeding season for the Gila monster is usually from April to June, and the males will fight by wrestling each other for mates. Females will dig a hole in which to lay their eggs and then cover them up. The hole isn’t very deep so that the heat from the sun will keep them warm until the young hatch. Once hatched, they dig their way out of the nest and are instantly on their own - no help from mum or dad!
Gila monsters don’t have many natural predators, but birds of prey and coyotes can be a threat.
The Gila monster will stay safe by hiding in its burrow underground, which is where it spends most of its time. If threatened it will hiss with its mouth open and attack suprisingly quickly, using its strong jaws to bite and release its venom into the wound. This venom is not fatal to humans, but can be very painful!
The main threats to these animals include hunting and habitat loss. Gila monsters have also been trapped for the pet trade, and their eggs are seen as a delicacy in some cultures. Many Gila monsters have been affected by habitat loss, through roads and highways being built across their range as well as farmland encroachment.
These animals are protected throughout their range, being one of the first venomous animals to receive legal protection in the United States.
Gila monsters are the largest lizard species found in the United States.
The Gila monster is one of 2 species of lizard in the world that uses venom; the other is the beaded lizard.
Gila monsters will spend most of their time underground in burrows - they hibernate in the colder winter months and seek shade in the hot summer months.
The venom of the Gila monster is being studied since it contains a protein which may help treat type-2 diabetes. Research is underway.
As a group of senior citizens it was great to have the road train available as it made it possible to visit different parts of the zoo which they wouldn't have managed on foot. The new lemur loop was a highlight for me, actually being in with the animals was magical.… Read full reviewCaroline - U3A Wokingham, 27th October 2017