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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Search continues for Ocala cobra following escape


After disappearing from an Ocala home a week ago, a 2-foot-long cobra has popped up on Twitter.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has not stopped searching for the multicolored suphan cobra since it escaped its enclosure at 905 NE Fifth St. at about 9 p.m. March 13.

The nameless snake is owned by Brian Purdy, who is licensed to handle venomous reptiles. Purdy’s 15-year-old son, Mason, said the snake escaped when his dad was not home, under the watch of an apprentice who is not yet licensed to handle such dangerous creatures.

Mason said he was the only other person at home when the snake disappeared.

“I was in the other room when I heard it happen — I heard it drop,” he said. “I didn’t know what got out, but I heard him say, ‘Oh gosh.’”

But on social media, using a parody Twitter account @OcalaCobra, the missing serpent has convinced 3,298 followers to tune into its snarky remarks to reporters and general Twitter users.

“I’m free for the first time in my life & I just found this iPhone, so why not tweet?” its Twitter bio reads.

Mason, a freshman at Vanguard High School, said his family turned the house upside down looking for the cobra. He said FWC officers brought a search dog to his house in an effort to find the snake.

Although many of Mason’s neighbors have been extremely understanding throughout the search process, he said others have panicked.

“They’re definitely overreacting,” he said. “These things don’t come at people to attack them. They get defensive, though, if they’re cornered.”

Mason said if the snake is found, his father will turn it over to the FWC. However, Mason said he doesn’t think that will happen, because he’s almost certain the cold-blooded creature died because of cold temperatures outside.

Kurt Dotten, the Purdy’s next-door neighbor, also assumes the snake is dead.

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“Their bodies don’t produce heat, so they’d only last about 15 minutes in temperatures below 40 degrees,” Dotten, 32, said.

Dotten searched around his house for hours after hearing the snake was missing. He said he’s surprised so many people are upset about the situation.

“People around here are shooting guns, doing drugs, and they’re worried about a damn cobra?” Dotten asked.

When Kristen Jackson heard about a cobra on the loose in her hometown, she said thought it was a joke.

The UF civil engineering freshman joked that she wouldn’t be going home to Ocala as long as the venomous reptile was missing.

“When I found out it wasn’t a joke, I got a little concerned, because the house is just a couple miles from one of the more popular parks that a lot of people, a lot of kids, go to,” the 18-year-old said.

Steve Johnson, a UF professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, said it’s possible the snake died in the cold. He also said it’s possible it slithered into a small, warm and confined nook in a nearby home.

Johnson said there are many snake enthusiasts in Florida, and although it can be thrilling and fascinating to own a venomous reptile, it’s not necessary or safe.

“I don’t think people need to be keeping cobras and other highly venomous snakes as pets,” Johnson said. “That’s my person- al opinion. I think it ought to be against the law.”

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