OCALA, FLORIDA – The search continued into the night Tuesday after 2-foot cobra escaped Monday night from an enclosure in an Ocala home, police said.
The snake escaped about 9 p.m. from a cage in a home on Northeast 9th Street near Ocala Tuscawilla Park, according to a report.
The tan-colored cobra is highly venomous.
Venomous reptile permit holder Brian Purdy called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at about 11:15 p.m. to say that the cobra had escaped its enclosure.
Purdy owns multiple venomous reptiles. His apprentice, who was learning how to handle venomous snakes, was watching the animal when it got loose.
“He didn’t see the snake in the case, and was just concerned about it and wanted to make sure it was OK, so he opened the cage to check on it,” said FWC officer Steve McDaniel.
McDaniel said the snake was still in the cage, but got out when the apprentice opened the top.
“He’s never handled cobras before, according to him,” said McDaniel.
Officials are still considering the possibility that a large lizard in the home ate the snake.
The owner told officers one of the lizards appeared to have an enlarged stomach.
“An x-ray and scope of the stomach, so that will be our next step,” said McDaniel.
If the cobra did make it out of the home, wildlife officers said due to the cold weather, it’s likely to stay close by.
“It’s not going to stay out in the open. It’s going to get somewhere comfy and protected from the elements as it can, if it’s outside,” said McDaniel.
A resident in the Tuscawilla Park area said police made calls to residents overnight about the missing cobra.
The search effort continued into Tuesday afternoon, keeping residents in the neighborhood on edge.
“I literally left work and came here, like I said my dog is here and I have a doggie door, so the ability for a snake to get in the house,” said Tiffany Wheeler.
“You’re not expecting your neighbors to have something like that,” said resident Brandon Lacey
Ocala police, Marion County Fire Rescue and FWC are investigating.
Officers searched Purdy’s home several times and set up what they called “monitoring areas.”
“We can kind of get a quick glimpse in the room to see if anything is out of place,” McDaniel said.
Officers searched around the home and several others, using snake hooks to make sure the cobra wasn’t hiding in any bushes.
Officers said they’ll search until dark and if the snake still isn’t found, they’ll come back out first thing Wednesday morning.
FWC officials urge residents in the area to use caution until the snake has been captured.
McDaniel said while there aren’t any kinds of restrictions for residents, but he’s asking everyone to be alert.
“Watch what you’re doing, where you’re going and where you’re putting your hands like, outside,” he said.
Weather will likely drive the snake out of the cold, FWC spokesman Greg Workman said.
“The snake is not gonna like the cold weather,” he said. “So the chances are it’s gonna stay in a warm climate where the temperatures are gonna be conducive to what he or she likes.”
Officers ask anyone who sees the cobra to keep a safe distance and call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
Records show Purdy met all state requirements for keeping venomous snakes.