Gila Monster Feeding

Neonate Gila monster eating a pinky rat.
A neonate Gila monster eating a pinky rat.

One of the pleasures of working with Gilas in captivity is their almost universal fondness for readily available foods, namely mice and rats. The typical Gila will eat whenever appropriate food is placed before it. In fact, they will easily eat to the point of obesity. Weight gain is also facilitated by a naturally low metabolic rate. Avoid obesity—an obese Gila is not a reproductively fit Gila.

Gilas are easily maintained on a diet of mice or young rats (freshly killed or frozen-thawed). Feeding commercial eggs to Gilas should be avoided due to the risk of Salmonella. To entice a reluctant feeder to eat, the snout of a mouse can be dipped in pasteurized egg whites.

Frequency of feeding will depend on the individual animal, its age and the time of year. For a maintenance diet I feed adult males about every two weeks. In preparation for egg laying and to recover from egg laying, I feed females twice a week. The growth rate of young monsters is related to the frequency of feeding and the amount of food given. They can be fed once per week or as frequently as twice per week.

Fresh water should be provided in a bowl that is not easily tipped over. If a large enough bowl is provided, it is not unusual for Gilas to spend long periods of time soaking. If they are allowed to do so, the water bowl will need daily cleaning. I prefer to not provide water in a container large enough for them to soak. Water is not readily available to free-ranging Gilas and if they are allowed to soak in captivity, they will often do it to the exclusion of other activities, including thermoregulation.