THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Authorities warned parents to watch their children and keep them away from dark holes after an potentially deadly albino cobra was seen slithering through a Southern California suburban neighborhood this week.
State wildlife officials and Los AngelesCounty animal control officers searched bushes and woodpiles Thursday for the monocle cobra, which has been loose at least since Monday evening, when it bit a dog on Rancho Lane in this VenturaCounty town just past Los AngelesCounty's western border.
The dog had a neck wound on Wednesday but appeared healthy, authorities said.
The monocle cobra can deliver neurotoxic venom that can be deadly.
"Do not approach it, do not try to capture it, do not try to kill it," said Brandon Dowling, a Los AngelesCounty spokesman.
If the snake does bite someone, anti-venom will be flown in from the San Diego Zoo, Dowling said.
Authorities urged residents to keep pets indoors, watch children and make sure they stay away from animal burrows, pipes and culverts. They focused on the cooler morning and evening hours when the snake probably would be more active and likely to hunt for mice and other food.
The cobra is native to Southeast Asia, parts of India and China, and can grow to 4 feet or more. Its name derives from a circle or ring on the back of its hood.
Cobras are illegal to own in California except for educational and scientific purposes, and a permit is required.
While it isn't aggressive, the snake will defend itself if cornered and "to it, a person is a great, big potential predator," said Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The cobra apparently escaped from captivity, although authorities had not found the owner. Dowling said Thursday that investigators are following "a few leads" on where the snake came from.
Unless the snake is hungry, it may remain "tucked away in a corner somewhere" for several days, Pauly said.
"It's not in its usual home (in captivity)," Pauly said. "It's probably freaking out a little bit.
It's probably quite anxious about this situation — as I'm sure the neighbors are as well."