Update September 10, 2015: The owner of the king cobra that escaped from its enclosure last week in Orlando, Florida has been cited by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for not reporting the snake missing in a "timely manner," reports News 13.

Update September 7, 2015: Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are still trying to track down the king cobra that escaped from its enclosure at an Orlando home last week. The latest strategy involves using traps baited with dead snakes in an attempt to lure the snake-eating cobra out of hiding.

Florida residents in the US went into panic mode earlier today when reports surfaced of an escaped king cobra in an Orlando neighbourhood.

According to the snake’s owner, the cobra slithered out at some point in the past 24 hours and is estimated to be eight feet long (which is actually fairly short as far as king cobras go). The escapee serpent has Orlando Twitter users in a flurry, so we thought we’d shed some light on what you need to know about this unusual pet …

What does it look like?

Just in case you call the ‘fuzz’ on the wrong snake, king cobras are usually olive-green, tan or black, with yellow cross-bands on the topside of their bodies extending the length of the snake. They are the longest venomous snakes in the world and can reach lengths of over 18 feet (about 6 metres); however, the culprit in this case is small in comparison at about 8 feet (2.4 metres). Although they aren’t classified as "true cobras", these snakes still have an impressive hood that can flare out when they perceive a threat.

King cobra wiki 2015-09-03
Image: Hari Prasad

Can it kill me?

The short answer is yes. King cobras pack a potent venom mostly made up of neurotoxins, and a single bite from one of these snakes could be fatal. However, when confronted, king cobras will usually attempt to escape rather than attack and will only become aggressive if continuously provoked. So if you spot this snake-on-the-run, don’t be a hero. Put down the kitchen tongs and call in the professionals.

Where will it be hiding?

Native to the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, king cobras prefer dense, forested habitats near lakes or streams. It’s likely that this escapee will be hiding out in a dense thicket somewhere. So tell the kids to hold off on hide-and-seek for a day or two.

Will it try to eat me?

You’ll be pleased to know that you’re not on the king cobra's menu. These snakes feed primarily on other snakes and (their name, Ophiophagus, actually means “snake-eater” in Greek). They may also eat lizards or other small vertebrates.

What should I do if I find the cobra?

RUN! Just kidding. As we’ve already mentioned, the king cobra generally avoids any sort of confrontation. If provoked, they will raise about a third of their body off the ground, extend their hood and hiss to warn off any potential threats. King cobras can strike very quickly from fairly far away, so don’t misjudge the "safe zone". If you spot the snake, don’t approach it, rather contact the FWC immediately. They are a shy snake, but a bite can be lethal, so it's best to back away.

Header image: schizoform