Venomous Lizards

Venomous Lizards

gila monster
Gila Monster

Venomous Lizards Information

There are two known species of venomous lizards: the Gila monster and the Mexican Beaded lizard, but researchers believe that there might be more venomous lizard species waiting to be discovered in the wild. Both known venomous lizard species are carnivores and belong to the genus Helodermatidae. They are found in the south-western states of USA and in Mexico.

Venomous lizards are generally not recommended as pets due to their aggressive and venomous nature and should only pet kept by experienced keepers. The Gila monster is listed as an endangered species in the US and Mexico. According to Arizona state law to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect Gila lizards. Venomous lizards are bred in captivity and available on the market. They are usually quite expensive. Make sure to check local law before getting a venomous lizard as they require licenses in many areas.

Venomous lizards belong in the family Helodermatidae. They are the only living relatives to the lizard group Monstersauria.

The two species of venomous lizards are the objects of a lot of different myths and legends and have inspired movies such as the giant Gila monster (Legend films 1959).

Gila Monster:
The Gila monster is a black reptile with a stunning patter consisting of yellow or orange patches on the body. Some Gila monsters have a banded pattern while others are reticulated. The body is stout with a short tail and a broad head with a round snout. They have strong muscular legs and can grow to be 55 cm / 22 inches long. In the wild they are found in the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts where they live in burrows.

Mexican Beaded lizard:
The Mexican beaded lizard  have a similar body shape to the Gila monster. The body is brown with bright, almost white spots. Mexican Beaded lizards can grow to be 40 in / 100 cm in length, with females growing bigger than the males. This species is found in central and western Mexico and inhabits tropical forests as well as pine forests and thorn scrub land.

Venomous Lizard Taxonomy

Venomous lizards belong to the genus Heloderma in the family Helodermatidae. The genus contains two different species and six subspecies

    • Heloderma horridum, Mexican Beaded Lizard
      • Heloderma horridum horridum
      • Heloderma horridum alvarezi
      • Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti
      • Heloderma horridum exasperatum
    • Heloderma suspectum, Gila monster
      • Heloderma suspectum suspectum
      • Heloderma suspectum cinctum

Venomous Lizard Care

Venomous lizards should be kept in cages that have both warmer and colder areas. The warmer areas should be about 85 - 90° F (29 - 32° C) while to colder areas should be around 72° F (22° C). The hot area can be something as simple as a basking rock or a spot under a heating lamp. These lizards grow very large and will need large enclosures. I recommended keeping them in enclosures that are at least twice their length in both width and length although they can be kept in smaller containers if necessary. An absolute minimum for an adult venomous lizard is 4 square feet (0.4 square meters) of floor space.

The container should include a hiding place for the lizard to hide under. The hiding place should be large enough for the lizard to move around inside the hiding place. They should also be provided with a large sturdy water bowl that they can bath in.

Cover the bottom of the container with news paper or wood carvings to allow for easy cleaning. Remove any faeces as soon as you discover them. All of the bedding should be replaced every now and then. Moist bedding needs to be replaced immediately. Change water in the bowl at least once a day.

Contact a hospital if your venomous lizard bites you.

Venomous Lizard Feeding

Venomous lizards are easy to feed as they accept a wide variety of foods. Like all “cold blooded” animals they have a low metabolism and should not be feed too often. These lizards will accept commercial reptile food as well as mice and rats and most other meaty foods. They can not be kept with other smaller animals as they will eat anything. Avoid feeding them eggs too often because even though it is a natural part of their diet, eggs are very fattening. Pork should be avoided for the same reason. Feed your adult venomous lizards once every two weeks. Young lizards and can be feed twice a week. Adult females should be feed like young animals during the breeding season since they need extra energy during this period.

Venomous Lizard Breeding

The Mexican Beaded lizards can be sexed based on the fact that the females are larger with longer necks and broader heads than males. The Gila monster on the other hand is very hard to sex is usually sexed using ultrasound. Both species become sexually mature at around 2-3 years of age. The Mexican Beaded lizard is easier to breed than the Gila monster.

Beared lizards:
Beaded lizards usually mate in May or June when kept in captivity, and the female will deposit her eggs 2 months later. The eggs hatch after 165 to 215 days. If you want to successfully breed this species you should isolate pregnant females to avoid the eggs getting eaten or the female being stressed. A nesting box filled with sphagnum moss should be provided for her to spawn in. Ideal temperature for the eggs is 79° F (26° C).

Gila monster:
Gila monsters can be breed in the same way with exception that they usually spawn in April and that the ideal temperature for the eggs is 79-85° F (26-29° C).

Venomous Lizard Health

Venomous lizards are generally hale and hearty animals and only seldom suffer from health problems. The most common health problem is obesity due to overfeeding. Young lizards grow fast and need a lot of food but adults will grow fatter rather than larger if they get too much food. Keep them on a balanced diet that provides them with all the nutrients they need without overfeeding them. Venomous lizards can develop skin problems if kept in too moist environments. Remember, these animals are primarily found in very dry areas and do not do well in moist conditions.

Venomous Lizard Facts

Venomous lizard facts 1
Venomous lizards are only occasionally available in the trade and if you want one it is best to contact a speciality breeder (they can be found online). Expect to pay in excess of $1,000 for one lizard. Banded Gila Monsters will for instance often cost around $2,000.

Venomous lizard fact 2
The Mexican Beaded lizard is the largest of the venomous lizards and can reach in excess of 40 in / 1 m in length.

Venomous lizard fact 3
The existence of even more species of venomous lizards were long seen as unlikely, but today most scientists suspect that there might be more species waiting to be discovered.

Venomous lizard fact 4
Venomous lizards are considered endangered and protected by law throughout their natural range.

Venomous Lizard lifespan

These lizards can grow quite old and they are known to live for up to 30 years.


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