Hunt for potentially lethal albino cobra to pick up at night

Missing albino cobra most likely to reappear at night when weather cools, official says

Authorities have deployed a three-man search team to Thousand Oaks to hunt for an albino cobra that has been on the loose for two days and is expected to most likely emerge again at sunset, officials said.

The albino monocled cobra -- which can grow up to seven feet long as an adult and has venom that can kill within an hour of a bite -- has been slithering undetected since at least Monday, when it bit a dog in the 1300 block of Rancho Lane. The size of the snake being searched for is not known.

Though the snake isn’t big enough to prey on cats and dogs, it will maintain a defensive posture when provoked, much like a rattlesnake, said Alfred Aguirre, an officer with the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control.

The snake probably wouldn’t hunt in the afternoon’s peak heat, Aguirre said. Instead, it would most likely go out hunting for “furry little creatures” like field mice sometime after 5:30 p.m. as the weather cools.

“We’re taking it a shift at a time,” Aguirre said. “We’re truly trying to get this when the animal is going to be most active.”

Aguirre said the dog will survive Monday's attack.

The snake could come out in the middle of the night, but that’s unlikely and also disadvantageous for the snake since it is albino and would be more easily seen in the dark, he said. Officers with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are aiding in the search.

Aguirre advised residents to keep their pets -- whether they are small as a Chihuahua or as big as a Great Dane -- indoors to prevent possible bites.

Animal control officials have since been canvassing the neighborhood in an effort to warn residents of the cobra's possible presence, and have notified the Ventura County Medical Center's emergency center. An antivenin had been located should it be needed, they added.

In California, cobras are restricted animals, meaning a permit is required to own one. And even then, they can be used for only scientific and education purposes, said Janice Mackey, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

However, local jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, have stricter regulations that ban owning the snakes outright. 

“A cobra is pretty darn dangerous,” Mackey said.

The owner of the missing snake had not been identified as of early Wednesday evening.

“Really, it’s just a matter of trying to find the animal,” Dowling said.

Jay Brewer, who owns the Reptile Zoo in Fountain Valley, said he didn’t understand why someone would own the cobra or keep one in their home.

Where they're permitted, cobras are typically kept in double-locked cages or in a highly-secured, specially outfitted room.

“I am very disturbed,” Brewer said. “I don’t think there is anything positive about finding a monocled cobra.”

The cobra, like other snakes, is likely hiding under a pile of junk or under vegetation -- anywhere it's dark -- and will probably be backed up against something, officials said.

Officials have had no calls from residents of possible snake sightings since it was first reported missing, Dowling said.

Anyone who sees the snake is urged to call authorities at (818) 991-0071. If residents do spot the cobra, Dowling said "we advise them to stay as far away as possible."

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna and @VeronicaRochaLA.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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