Police and wildlife authorities are scrambling to find an eight-foot king cobra after it was reported near a school in Orlando. King cobras are the longest venomous snakes in the world and can grow up to 18 feet in length.
Although they generally avoid humans, the species is still considered extremely dangerous and has a fearsome reputation across its native range in Southeast Asia.
“All hands are on deck as we continue to search this morning for an escaped king cobra in the Orlando area. The snake, approximately 8 feet long, was reported missing yesterday by its permitted owner,” stated the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The snake is believed to have escaped from a wildlife sanctuary in the 4800 block of North Apopka Vineland Road. According to News 13, the snake reportedly belonged to Mike Kennedy, who operates Dragon Ranch and stars in the Discovery TV series Airplane Repo. Kennedy also cares for crocodiles, cheetahs, and other exotic animals in his sanctuary.
Officials believe the snake may have fled to a nearby forest. King cobras are good climbers and have been known to scale trees as hiding places. Authorities advise residents to keep their doors and windows closed, avoid going outside at night, and to accompany small children. Cobras are most active at night when the the temperature drops and will hiss if threatened.
“Most likely nobody is going to see it. We believe it’s going to stay on the property here, which is a heavily wooded area,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Capt. Chris Roszkowiak. “On the remote chance it does leave this area, and if someone does see it, please call our number so we can try to recapture the snake. But please do not approach it; don’t corner it or let any animals at it.”
The venom of a king cobra is a highly potent mixture of neurotoxins that can cause intense pain, blurred vision, paralysis, respiratory failure, and death. Unlike other cobra bites, a larger dose of antivenom than usual is needed to reverse the effects of a king cobra bite—which can kill grown elephants within hours. Fortunately, the snake is not as aggressive as its reputation would suggest. Experts say that king cobras are relatively shy creatures and will attempt to escape if it encounters a human.
Still, authorities are not taking any chances. A school one mile away from Dragon Ranch has canceled all outdoor activities and restricted students to indoor classes. FWC staff are currently trying to track the snake down and advise residents to report any sightings. Officials did not specify whether the snake’s owner will face any fines.
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