Venom-spitting snake on the loose in Raleigh allowed under NC law

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- A venom-spitting snake was still on the loose in a Raleigh neighborhood more than a day after it escaped.

Police said it belonged to a person in the area.

A bite or venom from the zebra cobra can cause serious medical issues even death.

RELATED: ‘I’m calling to report a snake’ – 911 caller reports seeing zebra cobra in Raleigh neighborhood

Herpetologist Bryan Stuart with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences said the snake would likely stay within a half-mile of the home it escaped from. Still, it’s almost unlikely it’ll be found.

The zebra cobra snake is not native to North Carolina or even the United States. The only venomous snake native to Raleigh is the copperhead.

“They’re actually very beautiful, beautiful snakes,” said Stuart.

Venom from the snake can cause swelling, difficulty opening your eyes, or breathing. It’ll be a painful and swollen bite. However, the zebra cobra snake doesn’t have to bite you to be dangerous. It spits venom from its mouth.

“It’s almost like a snake that has mace. And so they’re really a remarkable, remarkable animal but it is a very dangerous bite,” said Stuart.

The zebra cobra is dark in color and nocturnal making it almost impossible to find.

WARNING: Venomous spitting zebra cobra on the loose in Raleigh neighborhood, police say

“I know that from my own work in southeast Asia where other species of cobras occur. They can be hard to find”

Stuart expected it probably found a hiding spot to take cover for the day while police and wildlife experts looked out for it.

“I would guess that this individual snake during the day, is going to try to find some cover like under rocks or logs and will hide there,” said Stuart.

Stuart said the snake would likely die when winter comes around or it will be killed by a car. Many of the preserved samples of copperheads in Stuart’s lab were procured that way.

The herpetologist said it’s unlikely the snake would come in contact with anyone. If you do come across one, keep your distance.

“Most snakes including that zebra cobra are going to want to flee, get away from a person. They would only stand their ground and strike or so forth if cornered,” said Stuart.

Stuart said in recent years, it’s become easy for people with little experience to buy dangerous reptiles online. He said the internet doesn’t always have accurate information on snake care.

“I’m concerned with how easy it is for someone to acquire something like this,” said Stuart.

He’s also worried this escape may prompt fear of snakes like the copperhead or other native species.

“I’m concerned the consequence will be many harmless snakes killed or otherwise persecuted,” he said.

Lindsay Shaw said she was in complete shock when she woke up to a text from a friend that a snake was on the loose.

“I guess we walk the poodle down the middle of the street, I don’t know, not the grass,” Shaw said. “It is scary, I’m not letting my children play outside or anything like that.”

Damien O’Malley said he heard someone in the area had exotic pets, including snakes.

“I think it’s a selfish pet to keep, absolutely, why would you do that,” O’Malley said.

North Carolina does allow people to own venomous snakes. You don’t need to register them with any agency. Under Article 55, all owners need is a locked, escape-proof, bite-proof cage with a number of state-mandated different labels. State law also requires an escape recovery plan

Individual counties are allowed to put bans in place but Wake County doesn’t have a ban in place for venomous snakes.

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