Albino cobra 'probably freaking out,' says official

An albino cobra on the loose in Southern California has officials warning parents to watch their children and keep them away from dark holes. The albino cobra has been loose since at least Monday evening, when it bit a dog.

Bronx Zoo/Reuters
A recovered Egyptian cobra is displayed at the Bronx Zoo in this file photo from 2011. Authorities are warning residents in a Southern California suburban neighborhood to be on the lookout for an escaped albino cobra.

Authorities warned parents to watch their children and keep them away from dark holes after an albino cobra was seen slithering through a Southern California suburban neighborhood this week.

State wildlife officials and Los Angeles County animal control officers searched bushes and woodpiles Wednesday for the albino monocle cobra, which has been loose at least since Monday evening, when it bit a dog on Rancho Lane in this Ventura County town just past Los Angeles County's northern border.

The dog had a neck wound on Wednesday but appeared healthy, authorities said.

The monocle cobra can deliver a neurotoxic venom that can be deadly, authorities said.

"Do not approach it, do not try to capture it, do not try to kill it," said Brandon Dowling, a Los Angeles County spokesman.

If the albino cobra does bite someone, antivenom will be flown in from the San Diego Zoo, Dowling said.

Authorities planned to resume the search on Thursday morning. Authorities were concentrating on the cooler morning and evening hours when the snake probably would be more active and more likely to hunt for mice and other food.

They urged residents to keep pets indoors, watch children and make sure they stay away from animal burrows, pipes and culverts.

The albino cobra's 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," Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The albino cobra apparently escaped from captivity, although authorities had not found the owner.

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."

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