Gila Monster

Heloderma Suspectum & Heloderma Suspectum Suspectum

Scientific Name

Gila Monster:  
Heloderma Suspectum & Heloderma Suspectum Suspectum

Distribution and Habitat

Geographic Range

The gila monster inhabits areas of Utah, Nevada, Arizona, western New Mexico and regions near the Gila River and Sonora, Mexico.

Natural Habitat

Gila monsters prefer to live in desert areas.

Physical Characteristics

  • The Gila monster has a short, stout body that is covered with bead-like tubercles instead of scales. The average length of a gila monster is 19 inches while the width is 3 ¼ inches. The body is pink or reddish-yellow and black. The top of the head shows pink or yellow marking extensively.

Quick Facts

  1. The Gila monster is ordinarily a slow and methodical animal, but can snap and bite very quickly. Once it bites, it holds tenaciously to the object it grasped, its jaws cannot be pried apart by bare hands.

  2. It is venomous, and has grooved teeth. The poison is not injected into the victim, but is drawn in by capillary action.

  3. Although the Gila monster is a desert animal, it is very fond of water, spending as much time in water as out of it in captivity. The tail acts as a good reservoir. In times of scarce food, the Gila monster can fast for months. The tail diminishes during this time period.


Amphibian and Reptile Center

Conservation Status

Near Threatened: The Gila Monster survival of the wildlife in the wild is affected to an extent that the wildlife is in danger of becoming vulnerable or endangered in the near future.

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It is believed that Gila monsters feed on insects, bird eggs and reptile eggs in the wild. In captivity, they are fed mice and the occasional hard boiled egg.