Venomous African Zebra Cobra Loose in North Carolina Neighborhood, Terrorizes Residents

A venomous snake is on the loose in Raleigh, North Carolina, and police are warning residents to stay away from it if they spot the reptile because it's likely to bite or spit if cornered.

The venomous zebra cobra escaped from its owner's home in northwest Raleigh on Monday, according to the Raleigh Police Department. It's not illegal to own a venomous snake in North Carolina, but if the owner has not followed certain requirements, including keeping it in an escape-proof cage, the person could face time in jail.

Police had yet to capture the reptile as of Tuesday morning, and it evaded capture at least once. A resident called police on Monday around 5 p.m. after seeing the venomous snake on the porch, according to WTVD. But by the time animal control arrived, the snake was gone.

Considered to be "very dangerous," according to the African Snakebite Institute, the snake can be identified by its black throat, dark brown or black head and the light crossbars that run in rings around the length of its body.

"It is pretty alarming. It seems like a pretty dangerous snake, and dogs like to sniff in the grass and check things out," Mark Pavlic, who lives in the neighborhood where the snake went missing, told WRAL. "It's an extreme worry."

snake north carolina venomous
A venomous zebra cobra is on the loose in a North Carolina neighborhood after escaping from its home. Raleigh Police Department

The zebra cobra is native to southern Africa, and if cornered, it will spread its hood and spit its venom, according to A Complete Guide to the Snakes of South Africa. The reptile can spit venom from various positions, including when it's concealed. The venom can cause serious tissue damage and minor neurological symptoms.

Police advised anyone who spots the snake to call 911 immediately but should not try to capture the snake or approach it at all.

Those who own a venomous reptile in North Carolina are required to keep the reptile in a bite-proof and escape-proof enclosure that has a sturdy lock. It must be clearly labeled "Venomous Reptile Inside" and include information about what to do if someone is bitten, such as the location of a suitable antivenin.

Owners must also have an escape recovery plan and report a missing reptile immediately to law enforcement. Not following the proper requirements, a Class 2 misdemeanor, can earn a person 60 days in jail and a fine. The Raleigh Police Department has not said if the owner broke any laws.

Although it's not illegal to own the snake, its escape sparked debate on Facebook over whether anyone should have a venomous snake as a pet. Some thought the owner should be held responsible if the snake hurts anyone, while others were concerned about its ability to evade capture and possibly start breeding in the area.

Newsweek reached out to the Raleigh Police Department for comment but did not hear back before publication.