MOSCOW MILLS, Mo. – Fears of snake bites are spreading in parts of Lincoln County after an Egyptian cobra was reported missing from a venomous reptile show in Moscow Mills over the weekend. As of Wednesday, the snake was still unaccounted for.
The organizer of the two-day Midwest Venom Fest told FOX 2 that daily searches of the venue near the Highway C and Highway 61 interchange would continue but had turned up no sign of the snake for four days, making this more likely a case of a stolen snake and not an escaped one.
The snake’s owner came to the reptile show from Texas. He spoke to FOX 2 from Texas on Wednesday. He said the cobra—considered one of the most venomous in northern Africa—was in its sealed container after the first day of the event, but was gone by Sunday morning. Its container had been moved but was still sealed, he said. Day 2 of the event was canceled.
Nearby residents report no sightings and no bites.
Alan Simms walks his dog, Blackie, in the area every day. He said he wasn’t worried about the snake.
“I don’t even know where you would begin to look. With a field like this (next to the venue) it could be anywhere. It could be wrapped up under one of them bales of hay (in the field),” he said.
“I’m petrified of snakes,” said Brenda Ambrose. “You should have a big snake search.”
“I hate snakes. I’m ready to get in my car right now,” Vance Roetter said. “I’m working right down here (in the area) so yeah, I’m real worried about it.”
All venomous snake bites should be treated promptly at a hospital, said Dr. Charles Caffrey, an emergency room doctor at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
“Try not to move the extremity or affected body part much. So, if you’re bitten on the hand, you want to try not to move it all around because that can increase the absorption of venom,” he said.
Symptoms can take hours to appear. In healthy people, bites from our native Missouri species typically do not require a lot of special care, while venom from species like Egyptian cobras can be more serious, according to Dr. Caffrey.
“Those will cause more nervous system effects, specifically paralysis,” he said. “That can be a big issue, if you can’t breathe because you’re paralyzed. Those patients will also need antivenom, sometimes intubation, and respiratory support until their symptoms pass.”
The missing snake’s owner told FOX 2 the animal was worth about $300. He decided against filing a police report and pursuing a case in Texas.
The snake was about 32 inches long and would likely not survive our overnight temperatures, he said.
The police, too, believe it was most likely stolen, but had yet to rule out the possibility that it could still be in the area.