CHIMPANZEES COMING THIS MAY

Deserts

Gila Monster

Heloderma suspectum

About

Meet the largest lizard native to the United States—the Gila monster! It is also one of the only venomous lizards in the whole world. That venom comes in handy for catching its prey, such as small rodents, birds and other lizards and also has been used as a treatment for Type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Gila monsters spend most of their life in underground burrows in dry habitats such as deserts, grasslands and beaches. They come out only occasionally to feed—and they eat a lot at once! A young Gila monster can eat half its body weight in one meal, and an adult consumes more than a third of its weight. Gila monsters are most active in spring when they mate. Females lay up to a dozen eggs in the summer, but they don’t hatch until the next spring. They can live more than 20 years.

Size
Up to 22 inches long and 1 pound in weight
Live in
Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico
Food
Small vertebrates, eggs
IUCN Red List Status
Near Threatened
Gila monster with rocks

Conservation

Gila monsters are a protected species because their populations are shrinking due to the pet trade and habitat loss. Sometimes they’re killed because they’re venomous. Always do your research before adopting a new pet to make sure it doesn’t harm wild populations.

WHERE ARE THEY AT THE ZOO?