Albino cobra on the loose in Thousand Oaks

2014-09-03 12:47:23
spotted-cobra-thousand-la

The search for a rare white snake slithering through Thousand Oaks continued Wednesday, two days after the venomous and potentially lethal reptile bit a dog.

Animal control officers spent the morning and late afternoon hunting for the monocled albino cobra, which was last seen in a yard in the 1300 block of Rancho Lane in the southern Ventura County suburb.

“It’s a little unnerving,” said Thousand Oaks resident Arianne Deeder, 39, who lives in the neighborhood. “I’m keeping an eye out.”

Deeder has chickens in a back yard coup and fish in a pond, along with a dog and a cat. She said she kept the animals safe by locking the coup, putting a fence over the pond and keeping her dog and cat indoors.

On Wednesday evening, seven animal control officers were walking through the neighborhood, searching horse stalls and yards for the elusive white snake.

An animal control officer said authorities believe the cobra was likely smuggled into the country and belongs to a resident of the street who has been known to keep exotic animals, like snakes, birds and turtles, in a rented house. The man was not at his home, they said.

News of the cobra quickly circulated on social media and was trending on Twitter, spawning parody accounts like @albinomonocledcobra and @toakscobra.

Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo, said that although monocled cobras possess toxic venom, and their bites are potentially fatal, the snake would likely try to stay hidden.

“They are shy like most cobras,” Recchio said. “Their first line of defense is trying to crawl away.”

It will spread its hood in a defensive position if provoked, Recchio said. The reptiles feed on small rodents, fish and other snakes.

Still, authorities warned residents that monocled cobras will strike if cornered. Although the cobra is capable of being active at any time of day, the reptile is most active during the cooler morning or evening hours.

After being bitten on the left side of its neck, the dog, a whippet mixed breed, was taken to a veterinarian in critical condition, but has since improved. The dog owner provided county officials photographs of the snake so it could be positively identified.

“The dog is doing well right now,” said Alfred Aguirre, an officer with the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control.

The monocled cobra is native to Southeast Asia and can grow to 7 feet long, Aguirre said. He did not know the size of the snake in Thousand Oaks.

Aguirre said the reptile is as poisonous as rattlesnakes, which are common in the area, and that he was not sure how the snake got to be on the loose Thousand Oaks.

It’s illegal to keep venomous snakes in California without special permits.

Authorities notified the Ventura County Medical Center’s emergency room and found anti-venom at the San Diego and Denver zoos.

Although monocled cobras are relatively common in the jungles of Southeast Asia, an albino cobra is extremely rare and a likely result of specialized breeding, Recchio said.

“Generally speaking, they don’t survive in wild,” he said. “Albinos are a figment of breeding and captivity. They are sold as a novelty.

“There’s no reason to have a cobra as a pet,” Recchio added. “But they can be out there, and this happens occasionally. Snakes are infamous for escaping their cages.”

If the snake is found, Department of Fish and Wildlife officials and animal control officers will determine its fate, authorities said, which could include a new home at a local zoo.

Contact the writer: dmorino@losangelesregister.com On Twitter: @douglasmorino

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