Apprentice arrested after cobra escapes Ocala home

Ian NeSmith shouldn't have been alone with snake, officials say

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

OCALA, Fla. - The apprentice who authorities said allowed a cobra snake to escape from its cage has been charged, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials said.

Ian NeSmith, 28, was arrested on April 7 three weeks after a yellow monocle cobra was reported missing to FWC.

FWC recommended charges against the owner of the reptile, Brian Purdy, in connection with violations concerning the housing, handling and possession of venomous reptiles, but the state attorney did not go forward with those charges.

FWC spokesman Greg Workman said Purdy, 42, contacted the FWC on March 13 at 11:15 p.m. to inform the agency that his snake had escaped its enclosure about two hours earlier in the 900 block of Northeast Fifth Street.

Purdy said, NeSmith, who was an apprentice learning to care for venomous snakes, was checking on the cobra, opened the cover of the cage, and the snake slithered out.

Wildlife officials said NeSmith should not have been left alone in the sealed room.

NeSmith is charged with violating a FWC rule.

News 6 spoke with NeSmith after the charges were filed against him.

He said he was ready for all of this to be over with and declined to comment further. NeSmith said he does not currently have a lawyer.

The 2-foot-long snake has still not been located.

Neighbors in the Ocala neighborhood had mixed reaction to an arrest being made.

"I just wish they would catch the snake," one neighbor said. "I don't really care either way about the people. Just catch the snake."

The process to receive a venomous reptile permit is "rigorous," and the applicant must have documentation of 1,000 hours of experience for each venomous reptile they request, the FWC said. 

There are more than 280 licensed venomous reptile permit holders in the state. 

Purdy received his last inspection on Dec. 15, officials said.

View a map of Florida venomous reptile permit holders below.

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