Don't Play With Poisonous Lizards

They don't want to be your friends

Don’t feed the bears, don’t get close to moose, don’t pose for pictures with buffalo — these are all cardinal rules when visiting the big-ticket wildlife parks of the western U.S. But for the southwestern parks, perhaps we should add “don’t pet the poisonous lizards” to the list. A 24-year-old man was recently bitten by a gila monster in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park  when he put it on his shoulder. After a few moments of consideration, the gila (one of only two venomous species in the world) bit him on the neck. It chomped him again on the hand when he reconsidered and tried to remove it.

The best part? The man later told park rangers he picked up the gila because “it wanted to be friends.”

After the lizard gave the man a few gentle love pecks, he wrapped it in a piece of clothing and took it with him until a park volunteer found him wandering by the roadside. By the time rangers arrived, the man complained of having difficulty breathing and was vomiting. He was transported to a Tucson area by ambulance for treatment of bites, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and acute idiocy.

Shockingly, this lizard lover wasn’t alone: It’s the second gila monster bite recorded this year. The fat lizard is rarely considered a threat to humans because of its slowness; this doesn’t take human slowness into consideration, however.

— Ted Alvarez

Man Bitten at Saguaro National Park by Gila Monster (National Parks Traveler)