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Banded Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus cinctum)
Lizards Around Las Vegas, Wildlife Around Las Vegas
Gila Monster

General: These are large, heavy bodied lizards with large, bead-like black and orange scales. People often see Western Chuckwalla lizards and think they are gila monsters, but chuckwallas don't have large beaded scales or the black and orange pattern.

Taxonomy: Beaded Lizard Family (Helodermatidae).

Gila Monster

Description: A large (total length: 45-60 cm [18-24 in.]), heavy bodied lizard with black, orange, pink, and yellow spots and crossbands on the dorsum. The scales on the dorsum are large, round, and bead-like, suggesting Indian beadwork. The tail is short, sausage-shaped, and banded. The tongue is black and forked, and it is flicked in and out like a snake. These lizards move on short legs with an awkward, lumbering gate. While Chuckwallas sometimes are confused with Gila Monsters, no other lizard in our area has black and orange bead-like scales.

Diet: Feeds on eggs of birds and tortoises. Also eats small mammals and lizards.

Banded Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus cinctum)

Habitat: Mojave Desert Scrub, mesquite/catclaw, blackbrush, pinyon-juniper, and desert riparian habitats (Upper Sonoran and Pinyon-Juniper life zones). Found on the lower slopes of rocky canyons, mesic flats, and flats with grassland or succulents. Uses rocks and burrows of other animals for cover.

Banded Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus cinctum) Range: The species occurs in southern Nevada and adjacent southern California, extreme southwestern Utah, and southward through southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico into northwestern Mexico. This subspecies occurs in the northern portion of the species’ range and western Arizona, and it probably is widespread in Clark County on the lower slopes of mountain ranges, canyon bottoms, and washes, especially near water and damp areas. There are few observation records in Clark County, and the local distribution of this species is poorly known.
Banded Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus cinctum)
Notice the size of the jaw muscles; these creatures can deliver a tremendous, grinding bite.
Comments: Venomous. This is the only venomous lizard in Nevada. Although appearing slow and awkward, this species can bite quickly and inflict a painful bite. They secrete venom via grooved teeth into their saliva, and then use their powerful jaws to grind the saliva into the bite. These lizards are not dangerous unless handled and should not be harmed. Mating occurs during the summer and 3-5 eggs are laid in the fall and winter. The sausage-shaped tail serves as a fat-storage organ.
Banded Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus cinctum) Banded Gila Monster, close-up of tail. This, plump, sausage-shaped tail serves as a fat-storage organ.
Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus) Banded Gila Monster
Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectus) If you were a tasty bird egg or tortoise egg, this might be the last face you ever see!

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 110616

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