Man Dies After Bite From Illegal Exotic Pet Named Winston

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Ilan Hulkower Contributor
Font Size:

Christopher Ward, a 34-year-old Colorado man, died Friday after being bitten by Winston, his pet Gila monster, CNN reported.

One of Ward’s two Gila monsters — large venomous lizards that are illegal to keep as pets in Colorado — bit his hand on Feb. 12, causing Ward to become violently ill, the outlet noted. He was transported to the hospital. where he was put on life support, according to CNN. (RELATED: Florida Man Finds Angry Iguana In Toilet)

Ward’s symptoms included repeated rounds of vomiting and loss of consciousness, according to an animal control report cited by CNNy. Ward’s girlfriend told Lakewood Police Department Animal Control officer Leesha Crookston that she she was in a different room at the time of the attack and did not know what caused the animal to bite Ward, but that she noticed Ward “didn’t sound right” when he tried to say something, the outlet noted.

After arriving at the hospital, Ward was pronounced “brain dead,” CNN noted, citing Crookston’s report. Ward’s exact cause of death has not yet been released to the public, according to the outlet.

The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office explained that they were waiting for additional toxicology testing to be completed before making an official pronouncement, CBS News reported.

Ward’s two lizards, Winston and Potato, were removed from the house and officials plan to relocate the reptiles to South Dakotan animal park, CNN reported. Police also removed twenty-six spiders of different species that Ward also kept as pets from the home, the outlet noted.

According to The Denver Post, Colorado requires a permit to own a Gila monster and only issues such permits to zoological parks.

“The bite of a Gila monster is very strong, and the lizard may not loosen its grip for several seconds. It may even chew so that the venom goes deeper into the wound. A Gila monster bite is painful to humans, but it rarely causes death,” the San Diego Zoo noted in a press release about the species of lizard.

Dr. Nick Brandehoff told CBS News that the last known case in which a human died from a Gila monster’s bite was in 1930, though he noted that the incident was not examined in medical journals.