White Cobra Snake Likely Headed to San Diego Zoo

White Cobra Snake Likely Headed to San Diego Zoo
File photo of an albino snake by Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr

Updated at the bottom with San Diego Zoo confirming the snake is coming there. The L.A. Zoo says the reptile is not technically albino. The headline has changed to reflect this.

The *albino white cobra snake that terrified Thousand Oaks this week could be headed to the "world famous" San Diego Zoo.

See also: Albino Cobra Is in Custody!

The Los Angeles Zoo has taken possession of the potentially deadly snake and says it is in negotiations with colleagues in San Diego to send the snake there.

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Why?

The L.A. Zoo doesn't have the kind of antivenin necessary to treat someone if they were bitten by this snake, says reptile curator Ian Recchio.

This "albino monocled cobra" is an Asian snake requiring antivenin particular to that region, he said, while the local zoo stocks only African-specific antivenin.

"We're working right now with the San Diego Zoo to take possession of the cobra," Recchio said.

The San Diego facility, which had antivenin at-the-ready during this week's snake hunt, is prepared for just such an Asian reptile. Recchio said that if the San Diego Zoo took the snake he would expect it to be put on exhibit.

A spokeswoman for the San Diego facility said there was no word yet on whether it would accept the white snake.

The albino was discovered to be on-the-loose after it bit a dog, which eventually recovered. It was found yesterday crossing a street near where it was first spotted, which was in the 1300 block of Rancho Lane.

White Cobra Snake Likely Headed to San Diego Zoo (2)
An actual photo of the cobra via L.A. County

Some owners remove venomous glands from their exotic snakes, rendering them less-than-lethal. However, Recchio said there were no signs on this cobra, including scars or sutures, that this reptile was the subject of such removal.

Having such an exotic animal could get the owner in trouble, he said, because he believes illegal to own an venomous snake in California unless you have a hard-to-obtain permit. 

If the owner wanted to reclaim the creature "he's going to have to figure out fines and potential jail time because he's [allegedly] break the law," said Recchio.

Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that the owner, if he or she doesn't have a permit, could end up on the line for "several thousand" dollars in fines and up to six months in jail.

However, he said, such punishment is rare and authorities usually negotiate a deal whereby an owner pays for the future care of animal. Unless the owner has a permit, which are issued for research or special displays, the snake's not coming back home, Hughan said.

A Thousand Oaks Police Department spokesman confirmed that this "kind of snake isn't normally allowed without a permit."

He said that investigators have not zeroed in on anyone particular and that police, working with the Fish and Wildlife, were still sorting through tips regarding who the owner might be.

Recchio said the albino cobra was put in a 90-day quarantine today and that he believed the San Diego Zoo, if it takes the reptile, would continue the quarantine. "We don't know where it's been or what it has been exposed to," he said.

The snake appeared to be in good condition and might have recently eaten a rat or mouse, Recchio said, because it had a bulge. It drank some water but wouldn't need to be fed again for a week or two, he said. Otherwise it was in good condition.

"It's a wonderful animal," he said.

[Update at 3:02 p.m.]: A San Diego Zoo spokeswoman this afternoon said the snake is indeed going to that facility. She wasn't sure if it would be exhibited for the public to see. Nor was it clear exactly when that zoo would receive the reptile.

*Meanwhile an L.A. Zoo spokeswoman said the snake isn't technically albino because it has blue eyes. Albinos have red eyes.

[Added at 5:30 p.m.]: Hughan of Fish and Wildlife later added this:

There is one facility that is permitted to have this type of snake, but the permit is pending, meaning it was filed just recently and the paperwork is working its way through the department.

There is no way to know if the snake came from this facility yet ... 

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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