Translocation of urban Gila Monsters: A problematic conservation tool

Brian Sullivan, Matthew A. Kwiatkowski, Gordon W. Schuett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) is a large, venomous lizard protected throughout its distribution in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Rapid urban growth in key areas of its range and increased encounters with humans prompted us to investigate translocation as a conservation tool with "nuisance" Gila Monsters. Twenty-five Gila Monsters reported as nuisances by residents in the northeastern Phoenix Metropolitan Area were translocated from 0 to 25,000 m from their point of capture. Subjects (N=18) translocated less than 1000 m returned to their original site of capture within 2-30 days; none of those (N=7) translocated more than 1000 m successfully returned, they exhibited high daily rates of speed, and were deprived the use of familiar refuges. We conclude that small distance translocations within suitable habitats are ineffective in removing Gila Monsters from areas deemed unsuitable. Moreover, individuals moved significantly greater distances are unlikely to remain at a translocation site, and may experience a variety of costs (e.g., predation risk) associated with high rates of movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Gila Monster
  • Heloderma suspectum
  • Phoenix
  • Reptilia
  • Sonoran Desert
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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