An interesting and kid-friendly fact about Gila monsters is that they are one of only a small number of poisonous lizards. Gila monsters are the largest native lizard in the United States, measuring up to 22 inches in length.

They spend 95 percent of their time hidden underground and only emerge to search of food or bathe in the sun. Gila monsters dwell in the deserts of the American Southwest and Northwestern Mexico and in the southwestern corners of Utah and New Mexico. They may also be found in extreme southeastern parts of California.They prefer open flat lands and rocky foothill terrains and can live at elevations of up to 5,000 feet.

Gila monsters have long life spans of up to 30 years. They subsist on a variety of food and move slowly when hunting, flicking their tongues as a way to detect and smell their prey. Gila monsters have powerful, clamping jaws that grab tenaciously, making it nearly impossible for prey to escape. Their bite emits a small amount of venom that is toxic.

Gila monsters usually swallow their prey whole, but they may break up eggs before consuming them. Favorite food items are frogs, birds’ eggs and chicks, worms, lizards and insects. They have the ability to store food in their tails as well as their bodies and have low metabolic rates that make frequent hunting unnecessary.

Gila monsters are usually active in the spring when mating occurs and food is most abundant. They are most energetic in the morning and have a home range that consists of around 1 mile.