Wild Fact #818 – Check Under Your Bed – Gila Monster

Photo by: Dr. Brendan P. O'Connor

I had thought about including today’s animal into the Venomous Animal Week, however, I decided against it.  The Gila Monster (pronounced HEE-Luh) is pretty cool so I wanted to share some facts about it with all of you.  In all honesty, I could have sworn that I already completed a Wild Fact for this monster but apparently not.  That index of animals really does help me keep my facts straight. Enough of my rambling, onto today’s fact.

The Gila Monster is native to Southwestern United States and Mexico.  It is actually the largest lizard species native to the USA.  So just how big do they get? Well, this monster can get up to 60 cm (2′) long and weigh about 2.2 kg (5 lbs).  That is pretty big for a lizard, especially one that is poisonous.  In fact, this monster is one of the few reptiles that contain venom (others are bearded lizards, some iguanas and the monitor lizards).  Luckily, this lizard only has a mild neurotoxin and there have been no reported deaths from this venom.  Don’t get me wrong the bite will still hurt a lot but it won’t kill you.  Why does this bite hurt so much? That is a very insightful question!  You are on the ball today.  Well besides the obvious answer that it is a 5 pound lizard with a very powerful bite so of course it will hurt.  The Gila Monster also has a painful poison which it delivers by latching onto their victims and chewing.  This allows the venom to move through their grooves in their teeth and into the wound.  I guess these lizards never have to worry about the “chew your food before you swallow” speech from their moms.

This particular monster frequently raids nests to feed on the eggs of birds and other reptiles. They will also feed on insects, small mammals and other reptiles.  The Gila Monster will store the fat obtained from these foods in their over-sized tails.  This allows them the ability to go months between meals, if required.

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