Missing cobra could be far from where it escaped

Friday morning snake experts will team up with Austin Animal Protection to search for a missing Monocled Cobra in North Austin.

"He's probably just going to be cruising along, looking like any other common snake you might see in your garden, depending on how big this thing is," said Jarrod Forthman, outreach director at the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels.

It's a first for the City of Austin, but the deadly serpents have a home just 65 miles away. Cobras are an everyday part of life at the Snake Farm Zoo.

"Cobras have a bad rap, but so does every other animal that people don't know much about," Forthman said.

Police said the cobra could be responsible for the death of 18-year-old Grant Thompson who was found unconscious in his car in a Lowe's parking lot Tuesday night. Paramedics treated Thompson for cardiac arrest and said he had puncture wounds from a possible snake bite. Meanwhile, his Monocled Cobra was missing from its cage.

"They are known to have a pretty strong neurotoxic venom, which basically attacks the nervous and circulatory system causing major organ failure," Forthman said.

The missing cobra could be far away from where it was last seen. Forthman said these snakes can easily move about a mile in just two days.

"This snake will travel and travel and travel. Most likely what he's going to do is cruise, find a nice hiding spot, chill out, but the minute they're hungry or need water, they're on the move until they find it and a snake like this can cruise pretty fast," said Forthman.

That could make it even more difficult for experts to track down.

"Tips for whoever's looking for him, you know, good luck. They're going to be found in really hard to reach places and usually a place that you would least expect to find them," Forthman said.

Even if the snake doesn't turn up, it won't stick around forever.

"He can swim, move over all kinds of terrain, he can climb, but you know, I said he can live around here. Not for very long. He's not going to make it through a winter here," Forthman said.

And while the lone missing cobra could be dangerous if it feels threatened, there are other venomous snakes far more common in the Austin area.

"We're home to Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, which cause more human fatalities than any other snake in the country, which isn't a lot at all, hardly ever have deaths from snakebites, and the likelihood that you find rattlesnakes before you find this guy is pretty good," Forthman said.

Animal protection and snake experts will meet at Lowe's at about 8 Friday morning to search the Lowe's Garden Center. The Garden Center will be closed until the search is completed.