Cobras on the loose in North Carolina!

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In what amounts to perhaps the best nonnative species introduction ever, wildlife agents in North Carolina are looking for two 6-foot monocled cobras and one 8-foot king cobra released into the woods of Cumberland and Onslow counties, near Fayetteville. Since both snakes are extremely venomous and potentially deadly, the hunt is on to catch them as soon as possible. One of the monocled cobras may be cornered under the crawlspace of a nearby home, but the other two are still on the loose.

Some officials allege that the poisonous snakes may have been released by an animal rights group lobbying for an exotic wildlife ban. The group in question, the Animal Protection Institute, denies any involvement, instead claiming it's "a hoax perpetrated by someone upset about pending legislation that we are involved in."

The officials say they found fliers distributed by a man who lost two cobras; no word yet on where the king cobra might have come from, but locals have reported missing pit bull puppies and chickens in the past few days.

King cobras are the world's largest venomous snake and can deliver enough venom to kill a full-grown elephant in 3 hours. Monocled cobras are distinguished by a circular shape on the hood, and their venom can cause autoimmune overload and near instantaneous death.

If the snakes manage to establish a breeding population anytime soon, hiking in southeast North Carolina is going to get pretty exciting in the next few years.

— Ted Alvarez

Deadly snakes may have been deliberately dumped in Onslow County (WITN)

King cobra reported in Cumberland woods (WRAL)

Via The Adventurist