These heavy-bodied lizards are easily distinguished from nonvenomous species by the bead-like surface and yellow or coral colored pattern of their skin. They are described as shy and retiring reptiles, not prone to attacking humans unless they are significantly agitated. Arizona laws protect these fascinating animals from being captured or held in any manner.
These large reptiles have a well-deserved reputation for clamping down on a victim with their teeth and not letting go. Most serious bites occur when the Gila monster's lower jaws secure a firm hold on the victim that lasts for several minutes.
The bite is described as extremely painful, although initial pain is generally confined to the area of the bite. Victims may also experience localized swelling, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, weakness, faintness, excessive perspiration, chills and fever. Some people have experienced severe reactions resulting in breathing difficulties.