Wednesday 5 February 2020

Rare Gila monster sighting in Arizona - via Herp Digest

Rumble 1/31/20
Go to for short video of a Gila monster.

Biologists who ventured out into the desert in Arizona in the middle of the night were in search of several different species of lizards and snakes to record and study, hoping to gain valuable information that would help with conservation efforts. But they did not expect to happen upon a very rare and intriguing lizard, the gila monster. These lizards are seldom seen in the wild and some biologists will go their entire career without sighting one. This team of scientists from Canada were well aware of their good fortune and one of them can be heard calling another biologist on his phone to share the news. In typical Canadian fashion, he apologizes to his friend for the fact that he has missed this amazing encounter.
The biologists photographically record, estimate measurement, and collect data from the sighting and then allow the lizard to continue on its way. The animals are not physically handled or restrained at any time. But the meeting caused Steve, a very accomplished researcher, to hyperventilate from excitement. His rapid breathing can be heard as the animal retreats into the brush. These scientists take their job seriously and they make every effort to ensure that animals are disturbed as little as possible. Their data will be very useful in many areas of conservation and preservation of threatened species.

Gila monsters have enjoyed legal protection in order to prevent them from slipping into the threatened species category by the IUCN but myths and misunderstanding by humans is still one of the biggest challenges that these "monsters" face. They are famous for being venomous and it is true that their saliva contains a powerful toxin, but it is not sufficiently powerful enough to seriously harm a human. A bite from a gila monster would make a healthy person ill for a few days, at most. But gila monsters are unlikely to ever attack a human, unless they were handled carelessly, or provoked. They are not fast moving and could almost never approach and bite a human who was actively trying to avoid it.

Gila monsters have sharp teeth and could inflict a painful bite if given the opportunity. They can also hold on tenaciously, if need be. Keeping a respectful distance prevents this sort of incident in all cases. Perhaps the biggest risk for humans is passing out from the excitement of seeing a live one in the wild.

As is true of most venomous creatures, they are of great interest to the medical community and their venom has been found to inhibit the growth of lung cancer. It has also been used to treat diabetes, and research is being conducted because of possible benefits in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and other diseases.

Habitat destruction and irrational fear by humans continues to present a risk to the survival of this species. Their loss would be accompanied by the loss of potentially life-saving medicines and treatments. As well, gila monsters play a vital role in the delicate balance of nature.

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