By Kasey Cunningham, Joe Fisher & Matt Talhelm, WRAL reporters; Heather Leah & Maggie Brown, multiplatform producers
Raleigh, N.C. — After hours of consultation and preparation by law enforcement and animal control officers, it was a glue trap that ultimately snared a venomous zebra cobra on a north Raleigh porch Wednesday night, ending a nearly 48-hour saga that garnered attention from across North Carolina.
The cobra was guided into a red bucket and taken to a safe location so the glue could be fully removed from its body.
Earlier in the day, WRAL's cameras captured the striped snake crawling out of the siding of a house on Sandringham Drive, onto the front porch of a home. Its hood was visible as it lifted its head to look around.
Animal Control officers moved camera crews back after confirming it was the snake, before they moved in to attempt to capture it.
A 911 call from that same home sparked the search early Tuesday.
Neighbor Joan Nelson said she was relieved the ordeal is over.
“I’m really, really happy and I feel much safer," she said. "I feel like I can now go outside, and go on my deck and walk. I do feel kind of bad for the snake though.”
The snake, a zebra cobra, can spit up to 9 feet and is faster than most snakes, making even a morning dog walk a scary task. According to the African Snakebite Institute, the snake is very dangerous. The venom could cause a victim's nervous system to shut down.
If hit by the cobra's poison, someone would feel immediate pain, swelling, irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. A heavy fever and breathing problems would follow, which could lead to respiratory failure.
Salina Locke, a veterinarian, treats all kinds of pets at the Avian and Exotic Animal Care.
"This species of cobra doesn't typically bite. They're more likely to spray their venom ... they are very accurate and go straight for the eyes," she said.
Locke said she does not recommend this snake as a pet, due to the risks.
The majority of bites occur when people are sleeping. People who are bit could suffer health issues for years, research shows.
On Tuesday afternoon, police searched a home on 6917 Chamonix Place, near the street where the cobra was last spotted.
Police visited that home four times in March for an animal issue. They returned on Monday and Tuesday, after the zebra cobra was spotted on a porch about a half mile away.
County records show that Keith and Rebecca Gifford live at that address. A Facebook account associated with Keith Gifford’s name shows several photos of snakes that he says are owned by his son, Christopher.
Christopher Gifford has more than 460,000 followers on his TikTok account. On one of his posts, he claims he has a zebra cobra that is 7 feet long.
Gifford’s Facebook page is linked to other social media accounts with videos of exotic snakes, including pictures of a zebra cobra. One of those accounts posted a photo early this week of a zebra cobra.
Videos on his account show him handling at least a dozen other kinds of snakes – many of which are venomous. One video shows a cobra loose in a grassy yard.
Another video shows Gifford with a cobra outdoors while he discusses names.
Gifford has posted photos of other snakes including a green mamba, another type of relatively rare venomous snake. Gifford posted on Facebook that he was bit by his mamba and rushed to the emergency room in March.
He also said in the Facebook post that animal control came by his property, and found that it met state codes for housing venomous snakes.
WRAL News reporters called the Gifford family and went to the home on Chamonix Place, but the family declined to comment.
Safety precautions and anti-venom
After the snake was reported on the loose, a resident shared a copy of what they said was an HOA letter from the neighborhood. In the letter, residents are encouraged to:
- Stay away from the woods
- Stay close to the streets
- Keep pets on a leash
- Make sure kids know to stay cautious
- Slowly move garbage containers; look inside before closing
- Do not try to capture the snake; call 911 immediately if you see it
Local hospitals do have access to an anti-venom index in case someone is struck by the cobra's deadly poison.
Residents of the community said they had no idea a venomous snake had been living in their neighborhood, and they're concerned – especially for their pets and children.
"It is pretty alarming. It seems like a pretty dangerous snake, and dogs like to sniff in the grass and check things out," said Mark Pavlic, who lives in the Brittany Woods neighborhood. "It's an extreme worry."
While the snake search progressed, they said they were avoiding going in their yards and the pool.
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- Humans aren't the only ones at risk from snake bites
Snake bites kill more than 81,000 people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Most of those deaths occur in Africa, Asia and Latin America.