Fayetteville, N.C. — Wildlife agents are scouring the woods near Cedar Creek after a man says he spotted what looks like a king cobra there last week.
Vernon Byrd was on an all-terrain vehicle in a field off Johnson Road last Tuesday when he said an 8-foot-long snake reared up beside him – and the serpent's head was about shoulder high to him.
"I caught something out of my eye, and this snake comes up beside me and looked at me," Byrd said. "I've seen every kind of snake in this part of the country, but I've never seen a snake like this."
He called Freddie Mims, a licensed wildlife rescue agent, who said the description of the snake sounded like a king cobra, the world's largest poisonous snake.
"Somebody (probably) had one illegally and sold it illegally. The person that bought it (likely) accidentally let it escape," Mims said.
Cumberland County Animal Control officials said they're trying to determine if anyone in the area ever owned a king cobra. Having an exotic pet is illegal in Cumberland County and carries a $1,000 fine.
Nearby residents said they thought the snake escaped from Jambba's Ranch, a local tourist attraction with exotic animals like a 700-pound bear and a camel.
"It's not true. We don't have a king cobra. We never had a king cobra," said James Bass, owner of Jambba's Ranch.
Residents said pit bull puppies and chickens have disappeared in recent days.
"(I'm) staying in the house," said Ida Edge, who has been on edge about the situation.
Byrd said he doesn't walk in the field anymore without a gun, and he won't go into the woods where he last saw the snake.
"(Wildlife agents) tried to get me to go with them, but I wouldn't. I told them they hadn't seen what I'd seen."