2022 Gila monster season: Engage!

Winnie the monochromatic (axanthic) Gila monster wasn’t quite ready for the 2022 breeding season despite being six years old but we look forward to her joining the group in 2023.

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 2020 holdbacks aren’t ready to breed so do not get brumated during the winter until they are a few years old.

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.

Ultrasounding a very patient Gila monster. Photo by J. Brueggen

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.

Herpstat 2 SpyderWeb proportional thermostat is a web-based unit that can be checked and adjusted from anywhere!

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:)

PIT tagging Gila monsters

Caption reads, “OUCH Dad!!”

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.

After installing the PIT tag, it was checked with a scanner to be sure it didn’t come out.
Handling Gilas is always a risky proposition, be sure to put the safety of yourself and those working with you first!