Gila Monsters are beautiful animals with black bodies with pink, yellow, and orange patterns adorned across them. Their bodies are similar to iguanas, with short legs, wide and long bodies, and forked tongues. They only eat a few times per year and are known for having a great sense of smell. Their sense of smell helps them to find eggs that are buried up to 6 inches below ground.
Although their beauty and “low-maintenance” feeding schedule may seem appealing to those looking for an easy pet, the Gila Monster is anything but. You may have noticed that not many of your friends, even those with other reptile pets, own Gila Monsters. This is because they are difficult to care for and even illegal to own in some states.
Attitude and Personality
The Gila Monster is a venomous lizard that is native to the United States. However, in states where it is legal to own a pet Gila Monster, it is strictly prohibited to capture them from the wild. These lizards are generally pretty docile animals, rarely using their venom in the wild. This can cause new owners to think that they can handle their Gila with little care or attention. But, a Gila Monster could bite at any time.
While their venom is not deadly to an adult human, their bites can be very painful. They also tend to bite down hard and stay down, making it difficult to remove the animal from your body. This is why is recommended to wear leather gloves whenever you are handling a Gila Monster. This helps to prevent injury to humans, but also trauma to the lizard by having to remove them from the bite wound by methods such as water submersion.
Gilas also tend to make pretty boring pets. They spend most of their time hiding or underground. So, if you are looking for a lizard that would be fun to observe, you won’t find that with a Gila Monster. They are also most active at night, making it even more difficult for most humans to catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures.
While most lizards are pretty happy with a “no-nonsense”, medium-sized enclosure, a Gila Monster needs something much larger and with more upkeep. For a full-grown Gila, you will need an enclosure with a minimum dimensions of 4’ x 2.5’ x 2’. This is not a standard aquarium or glass enclosure size so, you will have to look into custom made pieces.
Enclosure also much be maintained with much more diligence. The habitat should be dry and clean at all times. Any moisture that is not absorbed by the substrate should be removed immediately. The substrate should be replaced weekly.
Since Gila Monsters like to burrow and hide, you will need to provide a place for him to do so. Hollowed tree branches, rock caves, and other manmade alternatives are great for this. You’ll also want to provide a water dish for the Gila to soak in. The water dish should be large enough for the lizard to get into fully and water should be up to the lizard’s belly. The water should be replaced daily and any spills cleaned up immediately.
The enclosure will also need to have two “zones”. One for basking and the other for cooling. This is because Gilas regulate their body temperature by external heat and cooling sources, like the sun and shade. The basking area should be 85-90 degrees, while the cooling area should be 80-85 degrees during the day and 75-80 degrees at night.
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