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POISONOUS LIZARDS


Gila monster
Heloderma suspectum

Description: Robust, with a large head and a heavy tail. Its body is covered with beadlike scales. It is capable of storing fat against lean times when food is scarce. Its color is striking in rich blacks laced with yellow or pinkish scales.

Characteristics: Not an aggressive lizard, but it is ready to defend itself when provoked. If approached too closely, it will turn toward the intruder with its mouth open. If it bites, it hangs on tenaciously and must be pried off. Its venom glands and grooved teeth are on its bottom jaw.

Habitat: Found in arid areas, coming out at night or early morning hours in search of small rodents and bird eggs. During the heat of the day it stays under brush or rocks.

Length: Average 30 centimeters, maximum 50 centimeters.

Distribution: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, northern Mexico, and extreme corner of southeast California.


Mexican beaded lizard
Heloderma horridum

Description: Less colorful than its cousin, the gila monster. It has black or pale yellow bands or is entirely black.

Characteristics: Very strong legs let this lizard crawl over rocks and dig burrows. It is short-tempered. It will turn and open its mouth in a threatening manner when molested. Its venom is hemotoxic and potentially dangerous to man.

Habitat: Found in arid or desert areas, often in rocky hillsides, coming out during evening and early morning hours.

Length: Average 60 centimeters, maximum 90 centimeters.

Distribution: Mexico through Central America.

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