On Wednesday, a West African banded cobra was possibly slithering through a Grand Prairie residential neighborhood, prompting questions from residents about exotic snake permits and snake bite treatments.
The cobra escaped from its owner’s home on Tuesday, Grand Prairie officials said in a press release, and various agencies searched for the creature near the 1800 block of Cherry Street on Wednesday. Authorities warned people not to approach or try to catch the snake, which is venomous and considered dangerous. Grand Prairie police initially said the person had a permit for the snake, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said Wednesday that the municipality where the owner lives prohibits people from owning this type of snake.
The 1800 block of Cherry Street is located in Dallas County. According to Dallas County rules, venomous snakes are considered prohibited animals.
Statewide, Texans can typically own nonvenomous snakes unless their county dictates otherwise. But snakes that are not native to Texas or are considered exotic and venomous require a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department-issued permit in order to be owned. African rock pythons, Asiatic rock pythons, green anacondas, reticulated pythons and Southern African pythons are considered dangerous and exotic.
Unlike rules for many other exotic animals, Texas law does not specify what form of enclosure a snake should be kept inside. Texas law has specifications for enclosure types for specified “dangerous wild animals,” but snakes are not listed among those creatures. However, a TPWD spokeswoman said that a person could face a class A misdemeanor penalty for recklessly, intentionally, or negligently allowing the snake to escape.
There is a separate permit required to sell snakes in a commercial setting. Licensed zoos that possess or transport a snake for exhibition or scientific purposes do not require a permit.
Grand Prairie police and Grand Prairie firefighters have alerted area hospitals of the missing snake and imitated a protocol with Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to treat this type of snake bite in case someone is bitten.
The West African banded cobra is a subspecies of the forest cobra that was only recently determined to be its own species by a research group out of Bangor University’s School of Natural Science, according to a press release from the university in 2018. The forest cobra group is considered one of the most venomous snakes in the world.
Venom from this snake causes progressive descending paralysis that, in severe cases, ends with respiratory arrest and death, according to the the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Fortunately, according to the African Snake Bite Institute, the forest cobra is shy and bites are rare. When cornered, the snake will lift its head off the ground and spread a narrow hood.
The typical treatment for snake bites is an anti-venom treatment supplied by a medical facility. If someone is bitten by a venomous snake, call 911 immediately and follow the following steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lay or sit down with the bite in a neutral position of comfort.
Remove rings and watches before swelling starts.
Wash the bite with soap and water.
Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
Mark the leading edge of tenderness/swelling on the skin and write the time alongside it.