Gila monsters eat a wide range of foods in the wild including small mammals and birds as well as insects, frogs, and bird eggs. When keeping them as pets, it is important to try to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible as this will ensure that your Gila monster remains happy and healthy.
Introduction to What Do Gila Monsters Eat?
Gila monsters are native to Southern North America and Northern Mexico but they have been bred in captivity for many years to be kept as pets and in zoos around the world. In North America, they are a common reptilian pet but it is important that these are not the easiest animals to keep. For this reason, you should never adopt a Gila monster if you are not 100% certain about their care.
One important aspect of looking after your Gila monster is to ensure that he has the correct diet; doing this will allow him to thrive and be as healthy as possible.
However, since these lizards are complex to take care of, many pet owners find themselves unsure of the best meal choice for the Gila monster and as such, many captive animals are not fed correctly.
In this article, we are going to be looking at the diet of the Gila monster in the wild and learning how you can mimic this closely when keeping one of these beautiful creatures in your home.
Notes On Keeping A Gila Monster
In most countries, the UK and the USA most notably, you cannot keep a Gila monster in captivity without first having obtained the correct permits and licensing. If you do not comply with this, there is a good chance that you may face some significant penalties, so before you worry about what you are going to be feeding your new pet, you must make sure that you have filed all of the relevant documents.
Gila monsters are venous lizards and can grow up to two feet in length, making them the largest species of lizard native the North America. Since these are such large animals, you must ensure that when you bring one into your home, you have an enclosure that is suitable for her. An enclosure that is too small could cause the animal to develop health problems and become distressed.
The Diet Of The Gila Monster In The Wild
In the wild, the diet of the Gila monster is considerably varied, especially when we compare this with other types of lizards whose diet may be a lot less broad. They are quite willing to eat anything that they can get their claws on but in the main, you will find these creatures chowing down on things such as small mammals and birds, as well as bird eggs. In addition to this, they also have a fondness for frogs, insects and carrion beetles.
They are aggressive hunters and have excellent senses that allow them to hunt efficiently and effectively. Most notably, the Gila monster will use his incredible sense of smell to detect prey as well as a significant sense of taste – you will have likely seen many reptiles using their tongue when navigating the world, and this is partially as a way of hunting.
Once the Gila monster locates his prey, he will take hold of it with his strong jaws and his potent venom will then flow into the open wound. This affects the nervous system of the prey, leaving the Gila monster with a tasty meal. But perhaps what is most interesting is how often they feed.
How Often Do Gila Monsters Eat?
It has been known that some Gila monsters, in the wild, will go for weeks at a time without having a meal. Experts explain that the entire supply of food for the Gila for a year might be eaten in a period of just three to four months. Adult Gila monsters will usually go around two weeks between meals unless they are breeding females, in which case, she would eat more frequently as more energy is needed during this time.
However, when they do eat, it is not uncommon for them to take a meal that is equivalent to one-third of their body weight – it is no wonder that they don’t eat all that often!
Conversely, when kept in captivity, these striking lizards seemingly don’t know when to stop eating. If owners allow it, they will munch anything that is presented to them. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of cases of obesity in captive Gilas so it is important to limit the amount of food they have access to. Furthermore, you should be mindful of the types of food that you offer to your Gila monster, as some things might not be as healthy as others; but more on that later.
When keeping a Gila monster as a pet, you should aim to feed him once every two weeks; this will be more than enough for a healthy adult male. However, if you have a breeding female then you should be sure to offer her a meal at least twice a week.
If you have adopted a young Gila monster, then the feeding frequency will need to be adjusted again with juveniles required almost twice as much food as a healthy adult. For this reason, you can provide your pet with a weekly meal. However, some owners like to offer meals twice a week while the Gila is young. The rate at which your pet grows will largely be determined by how frequently she eats while young, however, once it again, it is important to be mindful of the types of foods you are offering to avoid her growing too much.
What Foods To Feed A Gila Monster
As we mentioned, it is important to try to replicate the natural diet of the Gila monster when keeping one as a pet. Pinky mice and rats are readily available at pet stores around the world and these should be a staple part of your pet’s diet. They can be purchased frozen, however, many pet owners find that their Gila monster prefers live prey and fortunately, live pinkies can also be widely purchased.
For some pet owners, especially those that are new to feeding this type of animal, offering live pinkies can be distressing and may take some getting used to. However, if you find that this is something you cannot stomach, buying frozen ones and dipping them into pasteurised egg whites can make them more tempting for your pet.
Concerning eggs, whilst they do make up a large portion of the Gilas diet in the wild, it is important to try to avoid offering these too frequently. This is because of the higher fat content in eggs which could serve as a way of making the Gila overweight.
If you are planning to breed your female, there is nothing quite as unhealthy as being obese as this can affect her fertility, much in the same way that humans with excess weight might struggle when it comes to reproducing so it is vital that you provide her with a healthy and low-fat diet.
On the occasions that you do offer eggs, it is important to get these from a specialist supplier. It is recommended that you do not offer commercial eggs such as those found in the supermarket as there could be a risk of salmonella and this could be devastating for your pet.
Of course, along with their food, your Gila monster will also need a constant supply of fresh, clean water. This can be offered in a shallow bowl which must be cleaned on a daily basis to avoid a build-up of bacteria. The bowl will also need to be relatively heavy so that the lizard is unable to tip it over – this could cause a lot of issues with the substrate and would mean a significant clean-up mission for you.
Gilas do like to soak so some owners will provide them with a water bowl that is large enough for them to get into. However, you should do this with caution since oftentimes, these animals will enjoy soaking so much that they omit to do anything else. This includes thermoregulation which is essential for their survival. If you are going to offer a soaking bowl, it might be worth doing this intermittently.
The Gila monster is a beautiful lizard that is found exclusively in Southern parts of North America and Mexico. In the wild, they have a relatively varied diet consisting of birds and their eggs, frogs, insects and small mammals. They are extremely efficient hunters thanks to their incredible senses and potent venom.
However, when they are kept in captivity, it is important to offer them a balanced and healthy diet. In the main, Gila monster owners can provide their pets with pinky rats and mice and an occasion, eggs. Furthermore, you should always be sure to provide your Gila with plenty of fresh water.