Orlando king cobra on the loose? The 8-foot-long cobra was reported missing Sept. 2, from Mike Kennedy’s facility on North Apopka Vineland Road.
In an interview, Kennedy was quick to point out the animals he keeps on his property are not pets. His 5-acre property, known as “Dragon Ranch,” is a refuge for abandoned or displaced exotic animals which includes several other snakes, crocodiles, alligators and even a leopard. He has permits for all of the animals, including the king cobra that is believed to still be in the area.
The media attention Kennedy has received has not only been tough for him, but also his family.
“It’s taken away … it’s put a negative twist on all the good work we do here,” said Kennedy. “Most of the animals we have here are rescues. I’ve picked them up from law enforcement, snakes that came from Winter Park PD, the Windermere Fire Department.”
Recent storms created water damage in Kennedy’s garage where he houses about a dozen venomous snakes including other cobras – all in locked cages.
The damage affected the cobra’s wooden cage, causing it to weaken and become soggy. That gave the snake just the amount of space it needed to push through the screen and escape.
Kennedy returned from a recent trip, saw the snake was gone, and immediately started the search by emptying his garage and attic several times to search for the cobra.
After not finding the snake, Kennedy called and reported it missing the next day but was fined $366 for not reporting it in a “timely manner.” Kennedy has been cited in the past for not keeping dangerous reptiles in secure enough enclosures.
“I know half a dozen snakes that people have lost. Many of them were monocled cobras and they never said a word but I can’t do that,” Kennedy said. “It would just be the wrong thing to do. It’s too important what I am doing. I have to be straight up and legal, and I was and I have taken a lot of heat for it.”
Kennedy and Florida Fish and Wildlife set up traps around the property to try and catch the snake, but so far, no luck.
“Of course my primary concern is that nobody gets hurt,” Kennedy said. “The chances of that animal hurting somebody are extremely remote. These woods are full of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes – he’s just another snake out there. He’s fast, agile, he sees you coming long before you ever see him and he’s out of your way – he just wants to stay hidden.”
Kennedy said the snake was malnourished and wasn’t doing very well when he acquired it about six months ago and says it would be difficult for the snake to survive the colder winter months.
Snake expert’s advice on staying safe
Once it escaped, the snake likely looked for a safe hiding place, according to David Tetzlaff, director of the Central Florida Zoo.
“An animal that is captive and then is not in its usual home, before it thinks of eating or anything, it thinks, ‘How do I keep myself safe?'” Tetzlaff said.
Because king cobras — and most snakes, for that matter — aren’t comfortable in the heat of the day, they most likely will move at night, when it is cooler. Tetzlaff said a king cobra would try to find the closest, darkest and coolest place to hide, such as under rocks or in sheds and open garages.