OCALA, Fla. - Authorities continue to search for a highly venomous 2-foot-long monocled cobra that escaped from its owner's home Monday in Ocala.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission spokesman Greg Workman said a venomous reptile permit holder, Brian Purdy, contacted the FWC on Monday night 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.
"It's a cobra. It has highly toxic venom," Workman told News 6. "It's like any (venomous) snake. It demands respect."
Workman said an apprentice learning to care for venomous snakes was checking on the cobra, opened the cover of the cage and the snake slithered out.
The man called Purdy, who rushed home. When they couldn't find the snake in the concealed room, they called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Wildlife officials said the apprentice should not have been left alone in the sealed room.
FWC officers searched the room and the entire house, including outside and underneath, but could not find the snake, nor could they determine if it has ventured outside.
Search crews and the snake's owner said Tuesday night that they were confident the venomous reptile was still inside the home.
"The snake is not going to like the cold weather, so the chances are it's going to stay inside a warm climate where the temperature is going to be conditioned to what she likes," Workman said.
Nearby residents were notified about the escaped snake by FWC, which urged them to keep their pets inside and stay vigilant.
Neighbors said many small children live in the neighborhood and are being kept inside.
"You're worried about someone breaking in and robbing you and now you've got to worry about a snake if you step out going to work," neighbor Brandon Lacey said. "And I have young kids, and I'm 35 and many years to come. If I'm not coming out the door and looking around, it's terrifying. It's still out. Don't know where it is. That's scary."
Purdy received his permit in May 2016 and is also the owner of three other venomous snakes and two venomous lizards, the FWC said.
Neighbors said they were not aware of the venomous reptiles inside Purdy's home.
"He never mentioned any snakes. I'm surprised it was venomous," Britney Simpson said. "I've heard of people having snakes, but nothing deadly."
Neighbors were upset not only that the snake may have escaped, but that the venomous reptiles were housed so close.
"Secure it, or have it somewhere that's not in a neighborhood, because we're right by a park and kids (are) all around this neighborhood daily," Lacey said. "We're so close. I could see if they are secluded, but this is a neighborhood (with) a lot of kids and people. Deadly snakes don't belong in a neighborhood like this."
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.
"This is something they check into on a daily basis to make sure the venomous reptiles are caged properly," Weber said. "From what I understand, it wasn't a caging issue. During interaction with the snake, the snake got out of its cage."
Licensees are inspected by the FWC at least once a year.
The snake is highly venomous, and a bite, although not painful, will affect the nervous system.
According to the FWC, a permitted venomous snake owner is required to make sure that antivenin is available.
In September 2015, an 8-foot king cobra named Elvis escaped from an Orlando home near Clarcona Elementary School.
The cobra belonged to Mike Kennedy, host of the Discovery Channel’s “Airplane Repo,” and he was licensed to have the cobra, according to FWC.
The cobra was captured more than a month later in October 2015 after a woman who was putting clothes in her dryer heard a hissing sound and discovered the snake behind the dryer.
Kennedy was charged with holding wildlife in an improper manner that caused it to escape, not maintaining proper housing and failing to report the escape.
Kennedy's trial is expected to begin Wednesday.
Anyone who sees the snake should stay at a safe distance and immediately call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 (FWCC) or *FWC or #FWC on cellphones.
Stay with ClickOrlando.com for more on this developing story.
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