Gila monster lizard facing camera flicking black forked tongue

Gila Monster

Monster? Maybe not!

Type

lizard

Reptiles

Area

Mexico

Mexico

Endangered Status

Threatened

facts

size
up to 21.5
inches in length
A soccer ball is 9 inches wide.
Gila monster next to a soccer ball
food
meat
meat eater

Gila monsters eat rodents, birds’ eggs and chicks, frogs, lizards, insects, and worms.

habitat
desert
Desert cactus icon

description

Gila monster with tongue flicking out

No spitting

The Gila (HEE-la) monster is found in northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Its scary-sounding name comes mostly from the frightful fables people tell about it. It has been accused of spitting venom, stinging with its tongue, and even killing people with its poisonous breath! But while Gila monsters do have venom, they can’t spit or spray it.

Closeup of gila monster

A mighty bite

If a predator grabs a Gila monster, the lizard will turn and chomp down on it. Tiny grooves in the reptile’s teeth help venom flow into the victim. The lizard may also chew to allow venom to move deeper into the wound.

A pair of gila monsters

They are slow-moving animals, so a hunting Gila monster flicks its tongue to “smell” prey, then sneaks up on it. These lizards have powerful jaws, so once the reptile bites, prey can’t easily escape. Gila monsters swallow their food whole (but will bite down to break open eggs).