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Posted: July 16, 2015

Austin snake attack: 5 things to know about monocled cobras

This photo, taken by KVUE News reporter Tina Shively, shows a cobra that was found dead in North Austin early Friday morning.
Courtesy Tina Shively, KVUE News
This photo, taken by KVUE News reporter Tina Shively, shows a cobra that was found dead in North Austin early Friday morning.

American-Statesman staff

Ever since police found Grant James Thompson unresponsive in a North Austin parking lot from an apparent snake bite on Tuesday, what remained missing was the prime suspect: a monocled cobra.

Authorities said the 18-year-old man, who worked at a pet store, had suffered cardiac arrest before he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Thompson had puncture wounds on his wrist, police said, but an autopsy report on his death is pending. A cobra has been found dead on a service road near where Thompson was found.

One non-venomous snake, six tarantulas and a bullfrog were found in the vehicle. But when authorities searched Thompson’s home in Temple, a monocled cobra was missing from its cage.

Here are five things to know about the animal:

1. The “monocle” in the snake’s name refers to the O-shaped pattern on its hood that looks like the old-fashioned eyewear. It’s the most obvious way to distinguish it from its more famous cousin, the Indian cobra, which has a V-shaped pattern.

2. The monocled cobra is native to Southeast Asia. It prefers swampy habitats, but the snake can be found in grassy places and tree holes. In urban areas, the snakes prefer hiding under houses and other covered places during the day.

3. Its neurotoxic venom makes this cobra so deadly that a bite can kill an adult human within an hour if a vein is hit. The venom affects the central nervous system, leading to respiratory failure or heart failure.

4. It can grow to nearly 5 feet long and typically eats small mammals, frogs and sometimes other snakes and fish.

5. You can legally keep a monocled cobra in Texas. State law does not require a license for having one, but it does require a controlled exotic animal permit that you can get with a $30 fee.

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