Man Dies after Fatal Gila Bite

( – A 34-year-old man from Colorado died days after being bitten by his pet Gila monster. The incident marked the first documented fatal Gila bite in over 94 years, highlighting the dangers of keeping venomous exotic pets.

The man’s identity remains unknown, but reports indicate that he was bitten by a juvenile Gila and died just days later on February 12. Experts believe he had a fatal allergic reaction and warned that there is no way to know if you’re particularly susceptible to the venom until you’ve been bitten.

Chris Lewis is an animal captivity expert and researcher with Born Free, a wildlife organization. He told The Daily Mail that incidents like these are “inevitable” as long as people keep pet Gila monsters in conditions which are unnatural. Enclosures, day-time activity, regular interactions with humans are all unnatural conditions for the animals which are normally nocturnal and spend a lot of time in burrows underground.

The Gila monster is the one North American lizard that is venomous. The substance is excreted during a bite from the animal’s lower jaw. The bites can cause swelling, pain, inflammation, like a bee sting. However, they can also trigger more extreme reactions like nausea, vomiting, and a sudden drop in blood pressure. There’s no way to know if your reaction will be severe until it happens which is why experts recommend against keeping the animals as pets.

Lewis said that the venom is typically not-regarded as fatal, but that rare allergies can happen. He added that regardless of how venomous the animal in question is, there’s always a risk of an atypical reaction if someone is bitten. He highlighted that there’s no precautionary test for Gila venom that would tell someone if they’re allergic or not.

A fact sheet regarding the care of Gilas warned that they are docile creatures which can lull people into a false sense of safety. It added that the little monster can bite “at any time.” They also have powerful jaws which can typically only be forcibly opened by submersion in water or squirting hand sanitizer into its mouth.

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