Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Lynn Chamberlain
Photo Copyright Lynn Chamberlain

The gila monster, Heloderma suspectum, is a venomous lizard that occurs in parts of the southwestern United States, as well as in northern Mexico. In Utah, the gila monster occurs only in the extreme southwestern corner of the state. Major threats to the gila monster in Utah include habitat loss (primarily from urban sprawl) and over-collection.

In Utah, preferred habitats for the gila monster include large rocky shelves, sandy areas, and creosote-sagebrush areas. Gila monsters in Utah are most active during the spring and summer months, although they do spend about 95% of the active season in burrows or under rocks.

Females typically lay one clutch of one to twelve eggs during mid-summer. The diet of the gila monster is composed of eggs (of ground nesting birds, lizards, and snakes), small mammals, lizards, and insects.

Gila monsters are large stocky lizards, with short thick tails and large heads. The scales on the backs of these lizards resemble a beadwork pattern of black, orange, pink, and yellow.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 336 pp.