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A Colorado man is dead after a pet Gila monster bite

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. Gila monster bites are often painful to humans, but normally aren't deadly, experts say.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. Gila monster bites are often painful to humans, but normally aren't deadly, experts say.

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

Christopher Ward, 34, was taken to a hospital shortly after being bitten by one of his two pet Gila monsters on Feb. 12. He was soon placed on life support and died Friday, Lakewood Police Department spokesman John Romero said Tuesday.

Jefferson County coroner's officials declined Tuesday to comment on the death, including if tests showed yet whether Ward died from the pet's venom or from some other medical condition.

Ward's girlfriend handed over the lizard named Winston and another named Potato to Lakewood animal control officer Leesha Crookston and other officers the day after the bite.

Ward's girlfriend told police she had heard something that "didn't sound right" and entered a room to see Winston latched onto Ward's hand, according to Crookston's report.

She told officers Ward "immediately began exhibiting symptoms, vomiting several times and eventually passing out and ceasing to breathe," according to the report.

Ward was placed on life support in a hospital. Within days, doctors had declared him brain dead.

Ward's girlfriend reportedly told officers they bought Winston at a reptile exhibition in Denver in October and Potato from a breeder in Arizona in November, according to the animal control officer's report. Told 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 working with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources sent the lizards to Reptile Gardens outside Rapid City, South Dakota. Twenty-six spiders of different species also were taken from the home to a nearby animal shelter.

Gila monsters are venomous reptiles that naturally inhabit parts of the southwestern U.S. and neighboring areas of Mexico. Their bites can cause intense pain and make their victims pass out but normally aren't deadly.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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The Associated Press