Officers tell harrowing tale of catching Elvis the cobra
Jenifer Porter and her two fellow animal-control officers were corralling the venomous king cobra after it came out from underneath a dryer in a Ocoee-area garage.
Suddenly, the snake, named Elvis, escaped their grasp.
He extended his body, becoming as tall as the 5-foot 6-inch Porter.
“I was pretty much looking him in the eye,” she said, adding he was about 2 feet away which was “definitely within striking distance.”
Porter backed away, and animal officer Kirsten Smith stepped on the snake’s tail.
Using snake tongs, officer Billy Ledford grabbed Elvis’ head. When a box normally used to contain captured snakes proved too small, officers put Elvis in a cat cage.
After about a month on the lam, the king cobra that inspired several parody Twitter accounts and many more leery neighbors was captured.
The 8-foot snake was just a few hundred feet from the the garage from which he escaped in the 4800 block of North Apopka-Vineland Road.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers confirmed it was the same snake that escaped Sept. 1 by scanning a microchip inside Elvis.
Cynthia Mullvain found the snake under her dryer Wednesday while she was doing laundry. She heard hissing and called police.
“I didn’t see it; I heard it,” she told Orlando Sentinel news partner Fox 35. “It’s a big snake. It only hissed when I put something in the dryer.”
As Orange County Animal Services spokeswoman Diane Summers put it, it’s not a call the officers involved will soon forget.
“It is rare for Animal Services officers to receive exotic-animal calls as the majority of calls they handle involve dogs and cats,” Summers said.
A post on a social-media page for Dragon Ranch, a nonprofit animal rescue run by Mike Kennedy, Elvis’ owner, said the snake is “pretty beat up and weak.”
“Your vigilance has been vital to the safety of the public and the recovering of the animal,” the post reads. “We are so grateful for this happy end without harm to anyone. This is a huge relief for Mike and our family.”
Kennedy pleaded not guilty this week to a misdemeanor charge of failing to immediately report the snake missing. He has requested a jury trial, records show.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officers started searching for the snake after Kennedy reported it missing on Sept. 2 — a day after he said he noticed it was gone.
He told officers he returned from a two-day trip and noticed water had gotten into a garage where he kept the snake and other venomous reptiles. That damaged the cobra’s cage and allowed the deadly snake to push against a screen and escape, according to FWC documents.
Kennedy was also given a warning for not using approved materials for the cages.
“We are taking steps to go above and beyond the guidelines set by FWC to insure nothing like this ever happens again,” Dragon Ranch said.
King cobras aren’t native to Florida and are considered among the most deadly snakes in the world, delivering enough neurotoxins in one bite to kill an elephant.
FWC spokesman Greg Workman said the investigation will continue. He doesn’t know how much the search cost, or if it will be passed on to Kennedy.
It’s also not clear how long the snake was under the dryer, where it had been before that or what it ate to survive.
It likely chose the dryer because it was a warm place, Workman said.
“It was looking for some warmth,” he said.
For Porter, it was just in a day’s work.
“We did what we have to do to keep the community safe,” she said.
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