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Colorado Gila monster death: Bite caused man’s death


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Two underlying health conditions were listed as “significant contributing factors” in his cause of death, according to an autopsy report.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A Lakewood man who died last month after he was bitten by one of his pet Gila monsters died from “complications” from the lizard’s venom, according to an autopsy report obtained by 9NEWS.

The report lists the cause of death for the 34-year-old man as complications of Gila monster envenomation – essentially an injury, in this case, a bite, by a venomous animal of some kind. It also lists an enlarged heart and a fatty liver as “significant contributing factors” and ruled his manner of death as an accident.

>The video above is a prior report about the case

Around 11:45 p.m. Feb. 12, someone called 911 to report an animal bite, according to Lakewood Police. It was later determined to be a Gila monster bite.

RELATED: Man dies after being bitten by Gila monster

The victim was taken to the hospital and died four days later. According to the autopsy report, the man suffered a “four-minute venomous Gila monster bite to the right hand.” 

Gila monsters are known to latch on when they bite and won’t let go very easily.

“These animals don’t use the venom in catching prey. They only use the venom in defense. They have to chew to start to release the venom. Now, they’ve got a really great grip,” said veterinarian Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.

The autopsy report also indicates that medical attention was not sought until an hour and a half to two hours after the man was bitten.

Lakewood Animal Control officers responded to the home the day after the man was bitten, and with the help of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, removed two Gila monsters from the home. CPW said they were taken to an out-of-state wildlife rehabilitation facility. 

RELATED: Gila monster ‘latched’ onto owner’s hand, animal control report says

According to a report from Animal Control, the victim’s girlfriend said she did not know exactly what happened with the Gila monster because she was in another room when she heard the victim say something that “didn’t sound right.”

She then entered the room with the reptiles and saw one of the Gila monsters had “latched” onto the victim’s hand and said the victim “immediately began exhibiting symptoms.”

She told the animal control officer that the animal that had bitten the victim was named “Winston” and said it had been purchased in Denver at a reptile exhibition in October 2023. The younger reptile is named “Potato.” It was purchased from an out-of-state breeder in November as a hatchling.

Animal control officers also removed 26 spiders of different species from the residence, the report says.



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Colorado Gila monster death: Bite caused man’s death

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