It is absolutely the most exciting time of year here are Goatsby’s Place – baby hatching! After years of preparation and trying to get everything right, getting any Gila monsters to go full term is always an achievement. This year we had 15 eggs, and only four hatched so it was pretty rough but the four we hatched are exceptional! The Gila gods must have felt bad for me as they were nice enough to give me a dark-phase baby with no banding, a very rare morph indeed! Of course this little baby is staying with us to see how it turns out. We will be posting the photos of the babies soon, though we quickly sold out with the few we did produce so be sure to get on next year’s waiting list if you are interested in one of our monsters!
2022 Gila monster breeding season update
Hey Monster Squad! It’s been way too long since I last sent an update out which is disappointing as so much has happened since the last post. As with all Gila monster breeding seasons, this one was full of surprises and a lot of lessons to be learned.
First, during pairing and copulating we attempted a 1.1 ratio for breeding pairs which we hoped would increase success. Two of our previously bred females were seen copulating at least five times, but the new girl we got last year was only seen once. Eggs seem to be maturing well as monitored on ultrasound, except for the new female which only had two eggs (the other two females had greater than five eggs from what we could see). By the time egg laying came about in June this is where things change and deficiencies in our program were found. our two long-term females produce 13 eggs between the two of them, and the new girl produced two.
Unfortunately only four of the 15 eggs survived of the whole group to date. One was actually eaten by it mother! This was a severe disappointment but valuable lessons were learned. First, the new female was under condition and not ready to be bred but she had enough weight and we thought she would be ready, she was not. Second our egg-laying protocol needs to be revised as it appears our girls are not comfortable laying eggs in their current egg boxes, which at this time are the entire cage turned into an egg laying nest with dark tint over the glass to provide privacy. Unfortunately this is not enough and we are going to try something entirely new next year fingers crossed!
As we approach the end of October we have four eggs still in the running. Four out of 15 is not a good ratio but some success is certainly better than none at all! It’s interesting that most eggs go bad within the first 30 days of laying, which says to me that our incubation protocol technique is working. Of course mid and late term and losses have happened but generally most eggs even fertile they are doomed will go bad within the first 30 days. These days I’m checking the incubator daily opening to egg boxes for fresh air as the humidity and temperature continue to remain stable throughout the week incubation period. We are super excited for the birth of our baby Gila monsters – each time I truly feel like a kid during Christmas opening the big gift center left under the tree! As soon as the babies are out we will post pictures and contact those on the waitlist in the order that they joined (Allen you’re up first!).
So as we wrap up our 2022 Gila monster breeding season and get our monsters ready for the Big Chill (hibernation, not the movie), we look forward to an amazing 2023 breeding season. One of our 2019 females produced here is growing follicles as shown by ultrasound and will be attempted to be bred next year. We are also very excited to have our axanthic Gila monster Winnie up to condition and ready to breed next year. This is a very, very exciting project for us as few of these morph are being bred throughout the world. We are also excited to put into motion the lessons we learned in this and past seasons to improve our success and to see more amazing baby Gila monsters born into this world, because what world isn’t better with more Gila monsters in it?
2022 Gila monster season: Engage!
Our 2022 Gila monster breeding season is about to kick into high gear. Our group (or lounge of Gilas as it’s known) of adults will be coming out of brumation soon and the captive breeding season begins. But all’s not been quite as our monsters sleep here at Goatsby’s Place, quite to the contrary as we’ve worked hard to prepare for this season and improve on what we’ve learned over the past year’s successes and failures.
Our primary goal this year (other than to have fun and raise amazing baby Gila monsters!) to increase our hatch rate to 80% or better. Over the past few seasons are hatch rate has been 50% or less which is disappointing to say the least but I have some ideas as to why our success has been limited. This year will be the first time we can test these theories and prove them out. Last year‘s phorid fly attack and the fact that only one male was cooled certainly contributed to the lack of success. This year on the other hand we have equal ratio adult pairs and are working with our own ultrasound to closely follow the inner workings of the male and female reproductive systems.
On a technological front we are migrating to a fully web-based system to monitor and adjust things as the season progresses. We’ve purchased and implemented the über-cool Spyder Robotics Herpstat SpyderWeb proportional thermostats to control the heat, and importantly, set up a nighttime temperature drop for the Gilas. We continue to use the SensorPush system to monitor ambient temperature and relative humidity, and added night vision cameras to monitor copulation and activity between paired Gilas. Having all this work with Alexa is just a geeky bonus, but fun nonetheless.
And last but certainly not least, keep an eye out on our YouTube channel as we begin a series of videos documenting the full reproductive season of our Gila monsters, from pairing, to copulation, to egg-laying and incubation, and if all goes well, hatching. My goal is to produce informative and fun videos to help increase our understanding of the amazing Gila monster. The good news is you get to see lots of beautiful Gila monsters, the bad news is you’ll get to see my ugly face from time to time:)
Gila monsters grow up quick
This photo shows offspring produced here over a three-year period; 2019-2020-2021. They really start to chunk out after the second year, but still have some growing to do!
hatchin’ ain’t easy
Here are some highlight of our baby Gila monsters hatching this year. Eggs incubated 142 days at 80.5°F.
2021 baby Gila monsters!
The 2021 baby Gila monsters are all out and settling in here at Goatsby’s Place! We are very proud of our beautiful baby monsters, and feel blessed to have been successful again this year. While most are spoken for, we may have a few available for new homes. Please email us if interested, or to get on the list for 2022.
Anything can happen on Halloween
I have always loved Halloween, but for the past two years our Gila monsters have been hatching on this magical day which delights me too no small end. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
PIT tagging Gila monsters
PIT (passive integrated transponder) microchip tags are certainly not new to the pet industry, being used extensively on cats and dogs to help lost animals find their way home. Taking this application a step further, some reptile owners PIT tag their herps to help keep track of animals in their collection or to identify those produced by a certain breeder. Until recently I haven’t given much thought to putting these microchips into my Gilas but a recent incident convinced me otherwise.
Someone on an Internet forum claimed to be selling one of my Gilas, but they didn’t have the “Certificate of Captive Birth“ that I provide with each Gila born here, and the person selling the animal was not registered on my list. I take this very seriously as there are folks selling wild-caught animals as captive-bred using well known breeders names and credentials. After a short investigation, it was found that the Gila was not one of mine but someone was using my name to sell a Gila of unknown origin (I cannot say for sure if it was wild-caught, but the circumstances around this sale were very suspicious). To help verify my Gilas in the future, I decided to look into PIT tagging my lizards.
After doing some research and speaking with my friend John who is very knowledgeable in both Gilas and PIT tags, it seemed this would be a good way to go in ensuring my Gilas could be easily identified within my group and to those that purchase from me.
Overall, the procedure is simple and can be done at home with the help of an experienced vet tech or if you are lucky enough to have a good friend knowledgeable in such things (thanks John!), otherwise inquire with your herp vet about the procedure. The health and safety of the animal is always paramount so please don’t take shortcuts on this or any matter concerning your Gilas. I was able to do this at home because I had an experienced friend but would not hesitate to take my Gila monsters to the vet to get the PIT tag installed safely.
With the discovery that hatchling Gila monsters over winter in their nest, I wanted to perform my own non-scientific social study of hatchling Gilas. Normally baby Gila monsters are reared on their own in solitary containers to facilitate easier feeding and maintenance, but this year I housed two siblings to see how they would be together. While they were housed alone for for the first two months to ensure both were feeding regularly and healthy, they were introduced into an adult-sized terrarium and have been there ever since. So far? The photo above best describes the behavior from the hatchlings. The definitely tend to share the same “burrow” / hide more often than not, and are active at the same time. Feeding has to be done carefully so as to ensure there is not fighting over food.
I do not know if there is a certain age they go their own way, but I will keep they together through the first year to see how they act with each other. Seeing this and the behavior of my adults makes me wonder about the social structure of these reptiles. There truly is still so much to learn about Gila monsters!
Check here for the scientific findings from the discovery above.
May 2021 Update: Nest boxes and hopefully eggs soon!
Though work and the other parts of my life have kept me from updating this blog on a regular basis, working with the Gilas has not slowed down. As of today my females are gravid and have gone through their pre egg-laying shed so oviposition is expected within the next week, according to my calculations.
This year my nesting protocol has changed due to the failures (or, opportunities for learning) of last year. last year one of my females delayed egg laying by about 10 days which resulted in the death of six viable eggs. Not a very fun lesson but certainly an opportunity for improvement. I think last year the female did not have the proper secure nesting area and held her eggs until she could not hold them any longer. I also tried a new nesting material which did not work out very well as it did not hold moisture for very long. This year, things have changed.
To help increase privacy and to solve the humidity issue everything has been changed. To start, the entire cage has been converted to a nest box. This is to allow the females to continue to thermoregulate (though over lower temperatures) throughout this period. I have installed privacy tint on 1/2 of the cage as well as a large black hiding box to increase privacy. I also went back to good old sphagnum moss misted daily to help maintain moisture in the cage. The ultimate goal is to provide a secure area that matches conditions for positive egg growth. So far it appears to be working as the conditions in the cage mirror those in my incubator (see below screenshot from my SensorPush app).
Will this ultimately work? We will know within two weeks. If all goes well my females will lay viable eggs this year. If not, I’m sure there will be a lesson learned and opportunity for improvement next year! Fingers crossed!