Expert weighs in on search for king cobra

George Van Horn: Operation 'worse than finding a needle in a haystack'

By Sheli Muniz - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - News 6 is getting answers on how difficult it is to find a deadly snake that has now been missing for 48 hours.

[RELATED: 8-foot king cobra remains on loose | AUDIO: School alerts parents]

The search has been centered around the 4800 block of North Apopka-Vineland Road in Orange County. It is an area with many homes, three schools and numerous trees.

News 6 spoke to George Van Horn, the owner of Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud. He said wildlife officials have their work cut out for them.

"With this snake, you don't know where he is, you don't know how much he might move," said Van Horn, adding that this operation is worse than finding a needle in a haystack because a needle doesn't move.

"My guess would be that he is sitting right now," Van Horn said. "He's probably found a good place and just sitting tight."

Van Horn, who has a 13-foot king cobra on display, said the snake can sit tight for several days or weeks.

"There is no telling. We may never see him again," Van Horn said. "Of course, he can show up at any minute."

Neighbors in the residential area of Apopka-Vineland Road would rather it not. The missing cobra belongs to Discovery Channel TV Host Mike Kennedy. Photos circulating of a king cobra are that of his female. It is said to be identical to the missing one.

It is the second time a king cobra has escaped from Kennedy. In 2001, a neighbor found it and shot it.

Van Horn compared the escaped snake to a bank robber.

"(I'm) going to wait here until this blows over, and eventually he's going to get hungry and he's going to need a drink of water and he's going to start going out."

As the snake then searches, wildlife officials continue theirs.

"My word to those that (are) involved in this would be: if you see him, get out your cellphone and get a picture, and then follow him at a safe distance and call somebody," urged Van Horn.

As a snake hunter, Van Horn said it's often difficult to find the snake when they arrive because the reporter hasn't kept eye contact on it.

Wildlife officials advise to call them immediately and err on the side of caution.

Meanwhile, late Thursday, Tampa Poison Control contacted Van Horn in search of anti-venom in case the king cobra does attack.

The search resumes Friday morning.

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