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The Gila Monster is a large, venomous lizard. This slow-moving predator was named for the Gila River Basin in the southwestern United States. The Gila Monster's scientific name is Heloderma suspectum (genus and species).

This solitary meat-eater is mostly nocturnal, most active during the night. The Gila Monster becomes dormant and stays in a burrow during the winter. This lizard can live for months without food; it lives off fat stores in its tail. Its life span is about 20 years.

Habitat: Gila Monsters live in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts of Mexico and the USA. It is the only poisonous lizard found in North America.

Venom: The Gila Monster has a potent venom, a nerve toxin, that is produced in glands located in the lower jaw. When a Gila Monster bites an animal, the poison flows into the wound via grooved teeth. This poison only rarely kills people.

Diet: The Gila Monster is a carnivore (meat-eater). It eats small mammals (like rats and mice), birds, lizards, frogs, and eggs. It senses prey using its long, sensitive tongue.

Anatomy: The Gila Monster averages almost 18 to 22 inches (46-55 cm) long and weighs about 3 pounds (1.3 kg). The scaly, bead-like skin is pink, yellow, and black; there are dark bands on the tail. It has a large head, large jaws, a thick tail, four short legs, and five-toed feet with sharp claws.

Reproduction: The female Gila Monster digs a hole in sandy soil, lays 3 to 15 eggs, and then covers them up with sand. Hatchlings are from 3.5 to 4.5 inches (9-11 cm) long.

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