Southwestern United States, such as Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, and Northwestern Mexico.
Prefers areas with enough moisture to support shrub life and regions rockier though they still are found in drier, sandier areas. They are also found in rocky foothills to open land and even in agricultural areas.
This formidable reptile may grow up to lengths of 12 – 24 inches and could weight as much as 5 lbs.
Varies from 20 – 30 years
Mating is from April to June. The female will lay between 3 – 13 eggs in mid to late summer. The female buries the oval, leathery eggs and lets the heat of the sand incubate them for 117 – 130 days, nearly four months. The young hatch vibrantly colored and are about four inches long.
They are strictly carnivores and eat a plethora of many different prey items from small mammals, to lizards and frogs, to insects and carrion. They will raid ground laying nesting birds for young and eggs.
These animals are solitary. Being crepuscular, Gila monsters are generally inactive during the day. They hide under rocks, or in stolen or excavated dens. They wait for the cooler temperatures to venture out. They hunt by using their tongue to taste the air, just as snakes do. They also have a Jacobson’s organ to sense and identify different smells.
POINTS OF INTEREST
One of only two venomous lizards, the other being the Mexican bearded lizard, these animals are very rare and are protected by law. They do not have fangs but administer venom during a bite. The bite can be ferocious and vise-like. The venom empties from modified salivary glands in the lower jaw, into a fleshy groove on the teeth and is ground into the bite. Although the venom is not potent enough to kill a person it will cause excruciating pain. It is effective enough for prey. Gila monsters are brightly colored with bumpy beaded scales. Their body color ranges from black to coral pink, black with orange, or yellow with cream. They will store fat in their tails as well as the abdominal body. Deceptively sluggish, they can be fast movers when threatened or agitated. They may also inflate their bodies to ward off predators such as coyotes, hawks, and other rattlesnakes. The Gila monster gets its name from the Gila River Basin.