Cause of Death Determined for Guy Who Lived With 124 Snakes

Maryland man died of accidental snake envenomation
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2022 11:40 AM CST
Updated Apr 14, 2022 1:31 AM CDT
They Found His Body —Then His Snakes
A Burmese python, similar to one removed from the man’s home.   (Getty Images/Natalya Vilman)

Update: The cause of death has been determined for the Maryland man found dead amid the 124 snakes he kept as pets in his home. David Riston died of “snake envenomation,” per the state medical examiner’s office, which ruled the 49-year-old's death accidental, NBC News reports. It's not clear which of the snakes might have been responsible for the fatal bite. While Riston did have a valid captive reptile and amphibian permit in the state, that did not permit him to own venomous snakes, which he had illegally, WJLA reports. Our original story from January 21 follows:

A Maryland man was found dead on the floor of his Pomfret home Wednesday surrounded by some 124 pet snakes, some of which were venomous and illegal to possess. A cause of the death for the 49-year-old, who lived alone, is not yet known. There were no signs of foul play, according to the Charles County Sheriff's Department. However, the department noted "more than 100 venomous and non-venomous snakes of different varieties were discovered in tanks situated on racks" within the home, per CBS News. Jennifer Harris of Charles County Animal Control tells WUSA that a team including reptile experts called in from Virginia and North Carolina "tagged and bagged" at least 124 snakes.

These reportedly included rattlesnakes, cobras, black mambas, and pythons. The largest was a 14-foot Burmese python. Harris says neighbors had no idea about the collection. It's illegal to possess venomous snakes in the state, per CBS. "I know people were worried that there could be some danger to people living nearby," but "we have not seen that any of the snakes were not properly secured or could have escaped," Harris adds. Even if a snake did escape, it would be unlikely to survive the cold outdoor temperatures, per NBC4. A neighbor who hadn't seen the man since the day before initially spotted his apparently unconscious body through a window. An autopsy will be conducted. (More snakes stories.)

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