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Tragedy Strikes in Colorado as Man Dies from Pet Gila Monster Bite

2024

A 34-year-old man, Christopher Ward, from Lakewood, Colorado, tragically passed away after being bitten by his pet Gila monster lizard. The incident occurred on the night of February 12th at Ward's residence on Holland Street. Ward's girlfriend called 911 after finding him with the venomous lizard latched onto his hand. She had heard Ward say something that sounded concerning from another room.

Following the bite, Ward quickly began experiencing symptoms, including vomiting, loss of consciousness, and cessation of breathing. He was rushed to St. Anthony Hospital, where he was placed on life support. Despite efforts to save him, Ward later succumbed to the effects of the bite.

The Gila monster that bit Ward was named Winston, purchased by Ward at a Denver reptile exhibition in October when the lizard was approximately one year old. Ward also owned a second Gila monster, named Potato, acquired as a hatchling from a breeder in Arizona in November.

Ownership of Gila monsters is illegal in Lakewood, as Ward's girlfriend was informed by animal control officers. Following the incident, authorities, including representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources, removed the lizards from Ward's home and planned to relocate them to Reptile Gardens in South Dakota.

Gila monsters are the largest lizards in the United States, capable of reaching lengths of up to 22 inches. Their venom is potent, similar in toxicity to that of a western diamondback rattlesnake. Although Gila monster bites are typically not fatal, their venom lacks an antidote, making it challenging to treat.

The Jefferson County Coroner's Office is conducting an investigation into Ward's death. Officials have not disclosed whether Ward's death was directly caused by the venom or if other medical factors contributed.

This tragic incident serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and respecting the potential dangers posed by exotic pets, particularly those with venomous capabilities.

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