Man dies after being bitten by his pet lizard

Wednesday, February 21, 2024
 – A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet monster lizard named Winston

Christopher Ward, 34, had spent days clinging to life on a ventilator after being attacked by one of his two Gila monsters.

He died in the hospital on Friday, Feb. 16, Lakewood Police Department spokesman John Romero announced this week.

Jefferson County coroner’s officials have declined to say if tests confirmed yet that Ward had died from exposure to the lizard’s venom, or from an unrelated medical issue.

Ward’s girlfriend told police she had heard something that “didn’t sound right” and entered a room to find Winston the Gila monster’s mouth clamped down on her boyfriend’s hand, according to an animal control officer’s report.

She told officers that Ward “immediately began exhibiting symptoms, vomiting several times and eventually passing out and ceasing to breathe,” the report revealed.

Ward was rushed to a hospital and almost immediately placed on life support.

Five days later, he was declared brain-dead.

The victim’s girlfriend has since turned over the couple’s two pet Gila monsters, Winston and Potato, to Lakewood Animal Control.

More than two dozen spiders of various species were also removed from the couple’s home.

She told officers that Winston was purchased at a reptile exhibition in Denver in October, while Potato came from a breeder in Arizona in November, according to the animal control officer’s report.

Informed that Gila monsters were illegal in Lakewood, the woman told officers she wanted them out of her house as soon as possible, the report said.

Officers with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources sent the lizards to Reptile Gardens near Rapid City, South Dakota.

The couple’s 26 spiders were rehomed at an animal shelter.

Gila monsters are large, venomous reptiles that can be found throughout the southwestern US and in parts of Mexico. Their bites can cause searing pain and make their victims pass out — but they are typically not deadly. Their venom is as toxic as that of a western diamondback rattlesnake and there is no antivenom for a Gila monster’s bite.

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