Gila Monster (Helderma suspectum)

Origin: Southwest USA and Northern Mexico
Sighted at: Texas Snake Farm, New Braunfels, Texas

The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard in the United States, but its bite is rarely ever as fatal as its fearsome name would suggest that it is. Besides which, the Gila monster is a notoriously lazy lizard. A body would probably need to shove a finger into the Gila monster’s mouth in order for it to actually pose some threat (I don’t suggest putting this to the test unless you’ve really got something to prove, though.) Its notoriety seems to stem from an old Apache belief that it actually possessed a deadly breath weapon.

Here’s something I didn’t know until I looked it up for this article – the Gila monster is named for the Gila River, a tributary of the Colorado River that runs through Arizona and New Mexico! “Gila” is probably a Spanish bastardization of the original Indian name for the river. So far as I am aware, the Gila Monster is the only animal that has “monster” in its name, which certainly must count for something, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the monicker.