A Utah man is in a bit of hot water after firefighters, responding to a report of a blaze, found half a dozen venomous snakes among 28 serpents in the individual’s home, located in Clearfield, north of Salt Lake City.
The unidentified individual did not have a permit for the venomous snakes, which were uninjured in the fire.
The vipers, which were kept in cages in a separate room, included five rattlesnakes, and, rather astonishingly, a gaboon viper, one of the most deadly snakes known to man.
Gaboon vipers, which grow up to six feet in length, are native to sub-Saharan Africa, have fangs up to two inches long and possess the highest venom yield of any snake in the world.
The snake’s bite can, not surprisingly, have a rather distasteful effect on humans, including: rapid and conspicuous swelling, intense pain, severe shock, defecation, urination, swelling of the tongue and eyelids, convulsions and unconsciousness. In addition, there may be sudden hypotension, heart damage and shortness of breath. The victim’s blood may become incoagulable with internal bleeding that may lead to vomiting of blood.
(I know what you’re thinking: Urination, defecation and vomiting of blood – now that’s a good time.)
Also, local tissue damage may require surgical excision and possibly amputation. Healing may be slow and fatalities during the recovery period are not uncommon.
All of which leaves one wondering why anyone would want to keep a gaboon viper in their home. Rattlesnakes can be dangerous if mishandled, certainly, but death is rare. It’s probably even rarer for someone who works with snakes regularly, as the individual in question apparently does.
But mixing in a gaboon viper with rattlesnakes is akin to keeping a few bobcats and a Bengal tiger. Who wants a pet that could kill them?
The venomous snakes were confiscated by the Utah Division of Wildlife.
It’s likely the five rattlesnakes will be released into the wild, but the gaboon viper could be sent to someone authorized to have it, according to The Associated Press.
The snakes were said to be well fed, in good condition and kept so that there was no threat to anyone in the neighborhood, the wire service added.
That latter point may not be fully settled in the minds of some neighbors, one imagines. Expect trick-or-treat traffic to be down dramatically at the house in question this Halloween.
(Top: A gaboon viper showing its two-inch fangs.)