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Colorado Resident Succumbs To Gila Monster Bite From Unlawfully Kept Pet

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A Colorado man passed away following a bite from a large venomous lizard, known as a Gila monster, which he unlawfully kept as a pet, as reported by Lakewood city officials. Christopher Ward, aged 34, owned two of these reptiles and fell ill after being bitten on the hand by one of them, as detailed in an incident report from the Lakewood Police Department. Lakewood, situated as a suburb of Denver, was the location of this tragic event.

On the night of February 12, Ward’s girlfriend dialed 911 upon discovering one of the reptiles latched onto Ward’s hand in the room where they were kept, LPD Animal Control officer Leesha Crookston noted in the report. Ward swiftly displayed symptoms, including repeated vomiting leading to loss of consciousness and cessation of breathing, as recounted in the report.

Ward’s girlfriend, not present in the room at the time of the incident, relayed to Crookston that she overheard Ward uttering concerning phrases, according to the report. Rushed to a nearby hospital, Ward was placed on life support and subsequently declared brain dead on February 16, LPD Public Information Officer John Romero confirmed to CNN.

Crookston informed Ward’s girlfriend of the illegality of owning Gila monsters within Lakewood city limits, prompting the removal of the lizards by Crookston, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials, and representatives from the Department of Natural Resources.

Winston, the lizard responsible for the fatal bite, was reportedly purchased by Ward at a reptile exhibition in Denver in October, while the second Gila monster, named Potato, was acquired as a hatchling from an Arizona breeder in November, according to Ward’s girlfriend.

Gila monsters, the largest lizards in the United States, can grow up to approximately 22 inches in length and are primarily found in Northern Mexico and various southwestern US states. The venom they produce is as potent as that of a western diamondback rattlesnake, although they inject relatively small amounts of venom compared to snakes.

“There is no antivenom for Gila monster bites,” the San Diego Zoo says, noting that a bite from a Gila monster is painful but rarely causes death.

“The bite of a Gila monster is very strong, and the lizard may not loosen its grip for several seconds,” the San Diego Zoo says. “It may even chew so that the venom goes deeper into the wound.”

However, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office has yet to respond to inquiries regarding Ward’s cause of death and whether it resulted from the lizard’s venom.

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