Berlin (AFP) - A deadly cobra was on the loose in the German town of Herne on Tuesday, with local residents told to keep their windows closed and steer clear of long grass.
The metre-long snake, a monocled cobra whose bite can be fatal, has been missing since Sunday after escaping from its owner in the western city of Herne.
Four buildings in the area where the snake was last seen have been evacuated with residents in the surrounding area told to shut all doors and windows.
Local authorities said the evacuated buildings will "remain locked and we will be regularly checking for any trace of the snake".
"Of course, this is not nice for the residents, but security must come first," added a city spokesman.
"We assume that the snake will most likely remain in the building" where its owner lives.
One method of tracking the cobra involves spreading flour in the buildings under surveillance in the hope the snake will leave a trail.
Locals should remain vigilant and "if possible, stay on paved paths and avoid walking in tall grass or dense vegetation," urged the spokesman.
The owner has already had around 20 other snakes seized from his collection since raising the alarm.
"We are waiting for a snake experts' assessment", added the spokesman.