Local News

More than 30 snakes removed from Orange County home following cobra bite

Posted May 4, 2016
Updated May 10, 2016

— More than 30 snakes, many of them venomous, were removed from an Orange County home Wednesday after the man living there was bitten by a king cobra earlier this week.

Ali Iyoob, 21, is recovering at UNC Hospitals and remains in critical condition. He called 911 on Monday night to report the incident.

“I just got bit by a king cobra and I’m on my way to the hospital,” Iyoob told the dispatcher.

Iyoob said that he was suffering blurry vision and was "sweating like crazy" following the bite.

Iyoob was bitten in his home by a snake he owned, he told dispatchers. A friend said he was in the hospital’s intensive care unit, recovering from surgery and breathing with the help of a ventilator.

On Wednesday, sheriff's deputies and animal service workers sorted through his collection of more than 30 snakes.

"Close to 20 of them are apparently venomous snakes," said Bob Morotto, the Orange County Animal Services Director.

Animal service workers are getting the snakes out of the county, and said some will go to the state Wildlife Resources Commission.

"Those will stay in care of the care taker until the legal process is completed," Marotto said.

Orange County law prohibits residents from “keeping, sheltering, feeding, harboring or taking care of any wild and dangerous animal.”

In the Orange County ordinance, reptiles (poisonous, crushing and giant) are listed as wild animals dangerous to persons and property. Anyone who violates the ordinance is subject to misdemeanor charges and a civil penalty of up to $50 per animal.

Exemptions to the ordinance include animals used for teaching and research purposes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s unclear whether Iyoob’s snakes were being used for research purposes.

Dr. Sean Bush, an emergency medicine professor at East Carolina University, said he knows Iyoob personally and understands his fascination with dangerous animals.

"People who are interested in venomous snakes are people who do not necessarily follow the letter of the law," Bush said. "I think there is something in us that is so fascinated, or interested, that you just want to confront the danger."

Bush said this was not Iyoob's first time being bitten by a snake.

"He suffered a pygmy rattlesnake bit," Bush said of Iyoob.

Despite his fascination, Bush said Iyoob's experience is a wake up call for anyone who enjoys dangerous wildlife.

"Really you don't have to handle them. They are sort of best appreciated form a safe distance," he said.

In total, 18 venomous snakes, 16 nonvenomous snakes, one caiman, two turtles, five chickens, eight chicks, four quail, four fish, one cat and one dog were removed from the home.


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  • Kim Schrock May 5, 2016
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    Who is going to pay these medical bills. Tell me it's not us tax payers!

  • Willy Hartsfield May 5, 2016
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    Aren't they violating his civil rights, if this man decides to handle snakes, is this not his constitutional right? I'm being sarcastic of course, he has put himself and others at risk. But so are those who are oppose to the HB2 law.

  • Renee Warren May 5, 2016
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    There will always be people outside the tight circle of zoo folks who have exotics. Most have no business doing so, putting themselves and others at risk. A few will be just as professional in being keepers as many in the accepted zoo circle. I know because my late husband was one of the pros who despite taking every precaution towards safety, still accepted the risk of being bit was always a matter of 'when, not if.' Legislation is always a prickly subject because it casts a wide net over the people who are responsible reptile owners.

  • Johnathan Gault May 5, 2016
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    Eventually a person like this is going to lose control of two snakes, one female and one male of the same species. Then we are going to have a highly venomous snake introduced to NC. Our indigenous pit vipers are kittycats compared to what is native to Asia and Africa. It needs to be a felony to import these snakes, with the penalties being severe.

  • Anita Gibson May 4, 2016
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    The photos on his Facebook page were creepy and disturbing. So many venomous snakes that he just didn't respect enough. There was a huge Gaboon viper along with several cobras, some had laid eggs.