SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 144 into law Wednesday, making the Gila monster Utah's official state reptile.
According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the large lizards are native to southwestern Utah and can live up to 25 years. They mainly eat tortoise and bird eggs and can vary in color from yellow to orange or pink with black bands.
Gila monsters are one of two venomous lizards in North America but do not present a large threat to the public as they are slow-moving and spend most of their time underground.
Samples of their venom from Utah led to the discovery of exendin-4, which helped lead to a drug for treating Type 2 diabetes.
The peptide can be synthesized in laboratories now, eliminating the need to extract it from Gila monsters.
Seeing a Gila monster in the wild is rare and the DWR said designated trails in the Red Cliffs Reserve and BLM Red Cliffs recreation area between April and May present the best opportunity to see one.
They can also be seen through the summer, especially on warm summer nights and it is illegal to capture or move a Gila monster found in the wild.
The DWR has asked that any sightings be reported by calling 435-879-8694.