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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of June 4, 1999

This week, facts about... the Gila (HEE-lah) National Wilderness and its native lizard, the Gila Monster.

Transcript

CURWOOD: This month marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of Gila National Wilderness. The Rocky Mountains in the Sierra Madre range terminate in the Gila, and parts of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts lie in it. Set aside in 1924, the Gila was the first area to receive the wilderness designation, ensuring that it would remain roadless and undeveloped. Among its flora and fauna are elk, aspen trees, and the prickly pear cactus. But its most novel species is probably the Gila monster. The Gila monster is one of two known venomous lizards. Its cousin, the Mexican beaded lizard, is the other. Striking in appearance, Gila monsters are pink with yellow and black shading, sporting dark bands on the tail. Adults may reach nearly two feet in length, making them the largest lizard in the US. They generally aren't aggressive. But if you do happen to see one, don't get too close. If they feel cornered they can turn and bite very quickly. A Gila's venom, while less toxic than most rattlesnakes, is potentially lethal, and their bites are plenty painful. See, Gila monsters don't release their victims immediately after they bite. They prefer instead to chew for a while. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

 

 

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