Gila Monster

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Species group:

Other common names: Reticulated Gila Monster (H. suspectum suspectum); Banded Gila Monster (H. suspectum cinctum)

Scientific name: Heloderma suspectum

The basics:
The Gila Monster is a large, heavy lizard which is native to the Mohave and Sonoran deserts in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. They spend most of their time hiding under rocks or in abandoned mammal burrows, and emerge at dusk to feed on insects, bird and reptile eggs and small animals. The Gila Monster produces small amounts of venom which is released in its bite.

The Gila Monster is threatened by human development, and Arizona and Nevada state laws prohibit the killing or capture of the reptiles. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Gila Monster as "Near Threatened", because "populations have been exploited (illegally) by commercial and private collectors, and they have suffered from habitat destruction due to urbanization and agricultural development."

Appearance / health:
The Gila monster can reach two feet in length. It has a large head, and small, beady eyes. The tail is short and fat. The Gila Monster's body is pink and black, with a reticulated or banded pattern depending on its subspecies.

Behavior / temperament:
It is estimated that the Gila monster spends 95% of its time underground in mammal burrows or rocky shelters. It is active in the morning during the dry season (spring and early summer); later in the summer, it may be active on warm nights or after a thunderstorm.

The minimum dimensions for an individual gila monster enclosure should be 4 x 2 x 2 ft (1.3 x .66 x .66 m), with bigger being better. Gila Monsters do well with a habitat which has a thermal gradient of 75-80 degrees F (24-27 degrees C) on the cool end, and a warm spot of 85-90 degrees F (29-32 degrees C). At night, the temperature may be allowed to drop to 70-75 degrees F (21-24 degrees C).

Wild caught Gila Monsters are illegal, and some U.S. states also prohibit the keeping of captive bred animals.

In the wild, the Gila monster eats infrequently (only five to ten times a year in the wild), and feeds primarily on bird and reptile eggs, and occasionally upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, insects, and carrion. In captivity, crickets and mealworms are appropriate. As the lizard gets older and larger, small pinkie mice can also be provided.


experts, great display exhibit, respectful experts


certain personal risk, toxic bite, captivity, toxic nature, Dangerous Wild Animals


police raids, greatly feared lizard, shelters

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