Grand Prairie, Texas, police arrested 23-year-old Lawrence Matl on Friday for the August release of his West African Banded Cobra snake, which has yet to be located.
Matl was charged with violating the Parks and Wildlife Code that makes it illegal to intentionally, knowingly or recklessly allow for the release of certain snakes. He’s currently being held at the Grand Prairie Detention Center with a $10,000 bond and faces up to a year in prison if convicted.
While Matl was taken into custody on Friday, the snake, which was reported missing in August, has yet to be located, the Grand Prairie Police Department told Newsweek.
On August 3, 2021, the Grand Prairie Animal Services responded to a report of a snake that was missing from a home on Cherry Street. The owner told the agency that around 5 p.m. he noticed his West African Banded Cobra snake was missing from its enclosure.
The agency, Matl and a venomous snake apprehension professional searched for the snake around the home throughout the night but were unable to find the reptile. Police advised residents in the area to call 911 immediately and to not approach or attempt to capture the snake.
“We’ve never dealt with a West African Banded Cobra before,” Grand Prairie Police Officer Mark Beseda told WFAA in August. “This is something new for us and frankly, it put our officers on the edge. We’re out there walking in the grass, around the home wondering, is my next step going to be on a poisonous snake.”
It’s not illegal to possess the snake, according to the police department, but a person must have a permit to do so, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Grand Prairie Police said in a statement in August that the possession of the snake was permitted by the State of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The missing cobra is about 6 feet long, according to CNN, and experts told KTVT that the highly venomous cobra is one of the largest of Africa’s true cobras. They have the ability to grow as large as 10 feet.
The snake’s owner told WFAA that he kept the snake in an in-house aquarium and that it got out at a time when the enclosure wasn’t properly shut. He said it “only took a couple minutes” and that he was working hard to retrieve the snake.
Randall Kennedy, the founder of Dallas Fort Worth Wildlife Control, told WFAA that the snake is “extremely toxic” and a bite can be fatal if not treated.
In August, the snake’s owner told KTVT that he believed the snake was dead and, therefore, the public wasn’t in any danger. He added that he wanted his community to “feel safe” so he reported the escape as soon as it happened.