California – A potentially deadly albino cobra is slithering free in an upscale California suburb, and authorities are in a desperate search to find it before it bites someone.
The hooded viper, possibly an escaped illegal pet, has already bitten a dog in the Thousand Oaks community, and the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, which handles animal emergencies in nearby Ventura County, is warning people to keep their pets indoors and their doors closed until the snake is captured. The monocled cobra was described as “very dangerous and venomous” and, although it is not typically aggressive, it injects a neurotoxin venom that can kill within hours.
“Do not approach it, do not try to capture it, do not try to kill it,” said Brandon Dowling, a Los Angeles County spokesman, adding that if the snake does bite someone, antivenom will be flown in from the San Diego Zoo.
The cobra was spotted and photographed Wednesday and appeared to be several feet long. It bit a dog on Monday evening, but the owner didn’t report it until Tuesday, Dowling said. The dog, named Kiko, was seen on television reports sporting a large red wound on its neck but otherwise appeared healthy.
Cobras are illegal as pets in California except for educational and scientific purposes, and a permit is required. The monocled cobra, common in Southeast Asia and parts of India and China, can grow to more than 4 feet long. It takes its name from the ring or circle design on the back of its hood — although this albino animal is pure white.
The snake was most likely bred in captivity because its color would make it vulnerable to hawks and other predators in the wild, Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the county’s Natural History Museum, told The Associated Press.
Jay Brewer, who owns the Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, said he didn’t understand why someone would own the cobra or keep one in their home. Where they’re permitted, cobras are typically kept in double-locked cages or in a highly-secured, specially outfitted room.
“I am very disturbed,” Brewer said. “I don’t think there is anything positive about finding a monocled cobra.”
The cobra, like other snakes, is likely hiding under a pile of junk or under vegetation — anywhere where it’s dark — and will probably be backed up against something, officials said.
The cobra is active during cooler morning and evening hours, but Dowling recommended keeping all doors closed to keep the snake from entering.
Officials have had no calls from residents of possible snake sightings since it was first reported missing, Dowling said.