Search called off: Orlando King Cobra
Published: September 19, 2015
Search called off: Orlando King Cobra, The active search for an escaped king cobra in Orlando, Florida, has come to an end after 15 days. The venomous snake was reported missing on September 2; it may have escaped in late August.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials were notified of the cobra’s escape by Mike Kennedy, its owner, a day after the reality television show host realized it had escaped. He had proper permits to own the snake but was issued a $366 citation for “failure to immediately report the escape of a non-indigenous venomous reptile.”
Kennedy returned from a two-day trip on September 1 and discovered that a tree branch had struck the roof of his garage, where the snake was held, while he was away. The hole in the roof allowed water to seep in, damaging the snake’s habitat. The cobra is believed to have escaped through a gap between its cage and some netting.
Wildlife officials diligently searched Kennedy’s property and the surrounding areas, and they set up series of traps baited with the cobra’s favorite food: smaller snakes. More than a dozen officials patrolled the area, an effort that included checking up on a nearby elementary school. Parents were understandably concerned about the loose cobra.
“We are no longer on foot patrol searching the inter woods,” a commission spokesman, Greg Workman, told Newsweek, but he clarified the search is not completely over: “[We’re] still monitoring the traps.”
With the search slowing down, elementary school officials have reopened the outdoor playground for recess. Children at Clarcona Elementary School had been playing indoors during recess while the search was ongoing for fear one of the 1,007 students who attend the school might encounter the cobra.
King cobras primarily live in the wild, where they can grow up to 18 feet long. The venom in a single cobra bite is powerful enough to kill an elephant, or 20 people.
Though the cobra may be dead, wildlife officials are concerned about its effect on the delicate Floridian ecosystem. Escaped exotic pets can become invasive, even if they seem harmless.
“We define an invasive species as something that when released can establish spread and cause harm. Certainly, the king cobra can cause harm by its very nature,” Craig Martin, branch chief of aquatic invasive species with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told Newsweek. Pet snakes have been known to escape enclosures, Martin added, and go on to multiply in the wild.
In one case, goldfish dumped into a Colorado lake multiplied quickly, and local officials eventually were faced with the task of removing 4,000 goldfish.
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