Zoo keeper bitten by Gila Monster

MCT photo Gila Monsters’ venom is not dangerous to humans, according to Clovis Parks and Recreation Director Rob Carter.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

A Clovis zookeeper was in stable condition at the Plains Regional Medical Center on Thursday one day after being bitten by a venomous lizard, according to a city official.

Clovis Parks and Recreation Director Rob Carter said a Gila Monster (pronounced Hee-la) bit Cody Machen’s hand while he was transferring the lizard to a cage. He said the Gila Monster jumped from Machen’s hand, and when the zookeeper tried to catch it, he was bitten.

Machen was under sedation in the hospital’s ICU ward as the venom works its way out of his system, Carter said. A Gila Monsters’ venom affects the nervous system, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park Web site.

“The animal is venomous but it is not dangerous to humans,” Carter said. “There is probably poison in the body; they’ve got to get that out with medication.”

The lizard was found Wednesday and caged, Carter said.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish donated the lizard last month, according to Carter.

Carter said Machen was following procedure when he was handling the reptile, which was about 12-15 inches in length.

The venom from the lizard is comparable to that of a western diamondback rattlesnake but there isn’t enough of it in one bite to be fatal to humans, according to the Smithsonian Web site. Native to the desert regions of the Southwest, Gila Monsters are typically black-and-orange and can grow to up to 22 inches long, according to the Web site.

Name: Gila Monster

Scientific name: feloderma suspectum

Habitat: Arizona, Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico

Size: Can reach up to 22 inches