It can’t claim to be native to Grand Prairie, Texas, but a 6ft west African banded cobra was believed on Friday still to be roaming through the city of almost 200,000 on the outskirts of Dallas after escaping from its owner’s house.
The city released a public warning on Wednesday morning, saying that the venomous snake had been reported missing from the home of its owner.
A subspecies of the forest cobra group, considered to be one of the world’s most poisonous snakes, the west African banded cobra is considered “shy” by the African Snake Bite Institute, a training organization based in South Africa, and rarely bites humans.
But if it does, its venom causes progressive paralysis that can lead to death.
Randall Kennedy, founder of Dallas Forth Worth Wildlife Control, told a local news outlet his company was contacted by the snake’s owner, Tre Mat, to help find the snake, which looks frightening when it rears up and flares its hood as a warning.
Ten traps had been set near the owner’s home earlier this week, Kennedy said, with no results yet.
“It’s not going to chase you down. Anything like that. If you step on it, it’s going to bite you. If you grab it, it’s going to bite you. Other than that you’re pretty safe,” Kennedy told the outlet.
Members of the public were warned against approaching or trying to capture the cobra.
Mat, who told local television station NBC5 that he does not believe the public is in danger, said he purchased the snake legally.
No charges have been issued by law enforcement. According to a city statement, Mat had a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Grand Prairie city codes state that constrictor-type snakes are illegal, but venomous snakes are not.
Snakes are also not considered prohibited “dangerous wild animals” in Dallas county.
A spokesman for the police department said that there was a possibility authorities could get involved.
“We’re exploring all options,” said Mark Beseda, Grand Prairie police’s public information officer.
Mat explained he had just fed the snake with a rat when it escaped from its cage. He said he fears the snake is now dead.