A king cobra remains on the loose in Western Orange County and Florida Fish and Wildlife have now set up traps to help catch the 8-foot-long venomous snake.
Several wooden boxes with screens, baited with dead snakes, have been places around the search area around a 5-acre property called Dragon Ranch, on the 4800 block of North Apopka Vineland Road, east of Ocoee.. King cobras feed almost exclusively on other snakes.
The snake's owner, Michael Kennedy has been cited in the past for not keeping dangerous reptiles in secure enough enclosures.
Kennedy is the star of the Discovery Channel TV series "Airplane Repo." He is also a self-proclaimed exotic animal dealer.
On his website, he said he rescues animals that people know to be dangerous predators.
The snake is supposed to be kept inside an inescapable room, but it somehow got out on Wednesday.
A king cobra's hood is not always flared out. The picture of the snake with the hood out is Kennedy's female king cobra. The other picture shows what a cobra would look like without the hood out. (PHOTO/FWC)
The search for the reptile is not just being done by Florida residents.
Micah Leon and Mike Inks work with animals in Georgia and drove down to search for the cobra.
"You know we’re open to see if there was any chance to help them out," said Inks. "We’d like to but we know they’ve got a really organized investigation going so we’re just seeing what’s happening."
The two men are optimistic the snake will be found and captured by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, however, George Vanhorn is a little more skeptical.
Vanhorn owns Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud and believes the snake's demise will be one that is all too common.
"What I would expect is he will show up as road kill at some point. That would be quite a possibility," said Vanhorn, who keeps more than 100 cobras in his facility and uses their venom to make antivenin for local hospitals.
Recently, an escaped cobra in Texas was found dead along a road and 25 years ago a cobra in Osceola County was found dead – also along side of a road.
While, an escaped king cobra is very rare, there are several reptiles that also can pack just as dangerous of a bite here in Florida - such as coral snakes and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.
Vanhorn says because venomous snakes are common here in Florida, it’s not worth altering daily habits to try and avoid them – especially a king cobra. The snakes are extremely evasive and, like all snakes, masters at hiding.
"I can imagine there are people who are probably not going to want to go outside until this has been resolved which is sad and really unnecessary," says Vanhorn.
FWC says they are deciding their next step in what to do in the search for the cobra.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's alert hotline if 888-404-FWCC (3922).
This photo, posted on Facebook, shows 'Airplane Repo' star Mike Kennedy, of Orlando, with one of his king cobra snakes. Kennedy reported one of his cobras missing Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2015. (Facebook/Mike Kennedy)
Cobra search cancels school activities
Officials at Clarcona Elementary School, which is less than a mile from the ranch where the king cobra escaped, said they are taking no chances.
Because of the ongoing search, Clarcona Elementary canceled all outdoor activities again Friday, and students in portable classrooms were moved to the school's main building.
A recorded message sent to students' parents Thursday asked them to "please accompany any children who walk or ride their bikes to school."
Recess and physical education classes were also moved indoors, leaving the playground outside Clarcona Elementary empty.
Extra safety staff was also brought on campus to work with maintenance crews in keeping an eye on the school grounds and help as needed, should someone spot the cobra.
Orange County Public Schools officials said outdoor activities will continued to be canceled while the king cobra remains missing.
Snake expert's advice on staying safe
Once it escaped, the snake likely looked for a safe hiding place, according to David Tetzlaff, director of the Central Florida Zoo.
"An animal that is captive and then is not in its usual home, before it thinks of eating or anything, it thinks, 'How do I keep myself safe?'" Tetzlaff said.
Because king cobras — and most snakes, for that matter — aren't comfortable in the heat of the day, they most likely will move at night, when it is cooler. Tetzlaff said a king cobra would try to find the closest, darkest and coolest place to hide, such as under rocks or in sheds and open garages.
Residents near the area should keep their doors closed. If they go out at night, take a flashlight, Tetzlaff warned.
"If you live in the area, don't walk outside at night unless you have to," Tetzlaff said.
Most snake bites occur on the hands and fingers or below the knee, so make sure to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Do not reach under an object outside at night without checking it out first.
Because most king cobras that are house-kept are fed about once a week, Tetzlaff said the possibility of the escaped cobra being hungry should not be much of a concern. The snake will be more concerned about staying safe and hidden, rather than looking for food.
Because king cobras are from the Southeast Asia region, they are familiar and comfortable in the Florida climate. Tetzlaff said if this king cobra isn't caught soon, it could potentially survive for a while, including through the winter.
"I hope it's found soon for peace of mind, but even when temperatures get in the 40s, they will find a hole in the ground where they will feel safe and not fully exposed, and they'll make it through," Tetzlaff said.
King cobra facts
From National Geographic
- Native to India, southern China and Southeast Asia
- Comfortable in trees, on land and in water
- Feed mainly on other snakes, lizards, eggs and small mammals
- A single bite has enough neurotoxin to kill 20 people or an elephant.
- Can go up to 18 feet in length
- Can live in the wild up to 20 years
- When confronted, they can raise up to one-third of their bodies off the ground and still move forward to attack
- However, they are shy and avoid humans whenever possible
Loose cobra goes viral
Not surprisingly, the story has getting a few chuckles over social media, including some references to the villainous Cobra organization from "G.I. Joe":
There are also references to the Harry Potter language Parseltongue and to Samuel L. Jackson and "Snakes on a Plane."
The famed Bronx Zoo Cobra chimed in as well via Twitter:
Good luck, buddy. Send me a postcard.— Bronx Zoo's Cobra (@BronxZoosCobra) September 3, 2015
There are also a few king cobra Twitter accounts, including @KingCobraInORL, where it appears the cobra is out on the town.
Next on the schedule: Dancing on the rooftop at Latitudes #OrlandoCobra— King cobra (@KingCobraInORL) September 3, 2015
There is also KingCobraOnRun:
I am willing to do a TV interview but I insist on being shown in Silhouette, oh and I want a stretch limo— CobraOnTheRun (@KingCobraOnRun) September 3, 2015