Nevada’s Gila monster: Part 1

The banded Gila monster (H.s. cinctum) is the subspecies that occurs in Clark, Lincoln, and Nye counties of Nevada. These elusive reptiles are rarely seen in the wild, and have been listed as a protected species by the State of Nevada. 

Gila monsters are usually found below 5,000 feet in elevation, and need warm weather, like many other reptiles in Nevada. The Gila monster often shares its geographic range with desert tortoises (Gopherus agasizii) and chuckwallas (Sauromalus ater). These beautifully mottled creatures rely on rocky landscapes, such as the center of a desert wash or alluvial fans. They are solitary, elusive, and often very difficult to find, even by experts. If you have ever spotted one in the wild, you have earned bragging rights because they spend more than 95% of their lives underground!

The Irberta Peaks Wilderness Area includes a portion of the Eldorado Mountains, with gentle rolling hills and washes extending to Lake Mohave. Rugged mountains, secluded valleys and flat alluvial fans provide opportunities the perfect habitat for Gila monsters.

Very little information is known about how many banded Gila monsters live in the state of Nevada. The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has ongoing investigations on the status, distribution, and habitat of this elusive desert predator.

One thing intriguing thing we do know is that Gila monsters are the only venomous lizard endemic to the United States. But this venom doesn’t make them any real danger to people, these beautiful banded lizards are quite docile and often avoid people or confrontation with other wildlife. If sufficiently harassed, they can work up enough energy to defend themselves, but the majority of bites reported are the result of harassment or improper handling rather than aggression.

Have you ever seen a banded Gila monster in the wild? Where were you? If you see a banded Gila monster in Nevada, we’d like to know!

So how does one identify a Gila monster while out on the trail? Tune in tomorrow for our blog: Nevada’s Gila monster: Part 2! 

Credit / Source: NDOW


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