Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum) are rather menacing independent reptiles that reside in Mexico and the United States alike. The sturdy burrowing creatures have the distinction of being the United States' biggest lizards. Gila monsters, along with Mexican bearded lizards (Heloderma horridum), are a couple of the planet's only poisonous lizards, too.
People as Predators
Gila monsters are fortunate in that predation isn't a massive concern to them. Their most prominent predators are actually humans. People occasionally unlawfully go after and seize these lizards as novelties of sorts. Since encounters with Gila monsters in nature are rare, people sometimes view these lizards as being of value. Persecution by people also sometimes occurs -- a result of their having venom.
Other Predators in the Wild
Although these tough "monsters" are often thought of as being practically predator-free, an assortment of animals are suspected of sometimes hunting them. These animals include foxes, mountain lions, coyotes and birds of prey.
Why the List is Short
It's hard to miss Gila monsters, what with their conspicuous bodily coloration that combines vibrant elements of black, pink and yellow. This noticeable coloration is thought to often keep them safe from peril, serving as a possible toxic "alert" to would-be predators. Their intimidating moniker didn't come out of nowhere, after all. Their jaws emit potent poison, and their sharp bites can be persistent and gnawing, transmitting the venomous stuff via the lacerations. Fatalities in humans who have experienced their searing bites are unconfirmed, however. Gila monsters usually go out of their way to stay away from people -- and from any living things that are bigger than them, in general.
These diurnal lizards usually grow to about 20 inches long, with typical weights of approximately 4 pounds. Note that Gila monster bites on humans always require prompt medical care.
Typical Prey Animals
Although Gila monsters are undeniably sometimes the prey, they're often the predators, too. Some of the types of animals they regularly hunt for and dine on are fellow lizards, arthropods, birds, insects, amphibians, juvenile rodents and juvenile rabbits. They rely on both scent and taste to track down nearby prey. When a Gila monster's tough jaws capture an upcoming meal, its poison can wreak havoc on the prey animal's nervous system. Gila monsters generally reserve their poison for purposes of self-protection, though.
- San Diego Zoo Animals: Gila Monster
- University of Arizona College of Fine Arts: Gila Monster Encounters
- SeaWorld Animal Bytes: Gila Monster
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Heloderma suspectum
- Desert Museum: Animal Fact Sheet - Gila Monster
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Gila Monster Fact Sheet
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