The snake ayes have it in North Carolina


We were skimming through some out-of-town editorials when we came across one in the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record. While upstate New York doesn’t have too much trouble with reptile control, we thought we would share this report with our readers who travel down South (and there are quite a few.)

Imagine that one of your neighbors informs you, that, oh, by the way, a venomous pet snake of his has gone missing and you might want to keep an eye out.

But not to worry, he adds. The 74 other snakes in his collection — including pythons, vipers, rattlesnakes and a green mamba — are present and accounted for ... last time he looked.

This is pretty much what happened in Raleigh, North Carolina, in late June.

Twenty-one-year-old Christopher Gifford lost a zebra cobra that eventually was caught in somebody else’s yard.

But not before causing palpitations among neighbors who didn’t know what might be lurking in their hedges and rose bushes.

Making matters worse, Gifford reported the AWOL reptile to police in June, but it had been missing since November.

This means the snake, which was caught three days after Gifford told authorities, had been on the lam for more than seven months.

Gifford was charged with 40 misdemeanors, all of which were dropped except one on Aug. 6 as part of a plea deal. He received probation and was ordered to pay the cost to taxpayers of finding and capturing the snake, which totaled slightly more than $13,000.

He also agreed to give up his snake collection, which was valued at $35,000.

And he said he was sorry.

Just so you know, a zebra cobra is no run-of-the-mill venomous snake, the News & Record reported. Native to the deserts of southern Africa, it spits its venom, very accurately, up to a range of nine feet. Its toxins can cause blindness, paralysis and massive hemorrhaging.

The AWOL reptile in Raleigh sparked a panic and generated national publicity for Gifford, as if he needed any.

Video footage of his extensive menagerie of fanged slitherers had earned him 460,000 followers on TikTok long before news of the Great Escape had broken.

Of course, the fugitive snake story raises many questions:

Why would someone collect 75 snakes? Where were Gifford’s parents? Did they ever consider for a moment that maybe their son owning a personal collection of deadly reptiles wasn’t such a good idea? And isn’t there a law against it?

We can only guess the answers to the first three questions. As for the fourth, no. There isn’t a statewide law against owning venomous snakes in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is, in fact, one of only six states nationwide that neither bans private ownership of venomous snakes nor requires a permit to do so.

State law does spell out specific rules and regulations for owning snakes. But that’s it.

As for Raleigh, the City Council is discussing an ordinance that would tighten animal restrictions there. But so far they haven’t voted on a new law proposed by city staff.

North Carolina’s motto is: “Esse quam videri.” This does not mean “Watch out for snakes.”

Translated it is “To be rather than to seem.” Meanwhile though, when you’re in North Carolina, watch your step.


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