Deadly cargo: Buying venomous snake online

By Curt Autry - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You can buy just about anything online these days, even dangerous animals.

The Gaboon Viper is one of the world's most venomous snakes. They have the largest fangs of any snake, and are some of the most venomous.

But the scary part is how easy you can get one. All you have to do is go online. One website gives you access to dozens of venomous snakes for sale around the world.

Our sister station in Myrtle Beach decided to see how easy it would be to buy one. They picked a snake, agreed on a price of $120, gave a credit card and that was it. No one asked the age of the buyer or if he had experience handling venomous snakes.

A few weeks later the snake was delivered to the Myrtle Beach International Airport and with hidden cameras rolling, the news crew found out the snake, packaged in a box, was actually shipped on a passenger plane inside a cargo area. Airline workers say that's normal.

The news crew wasn't about to open the box. They met with a local snake expert to do the honors.

"How dangerous is this snake?"

"A Gaboon can kill a person, potentially fatal. Way more dangerous than our Copperheads or Cotton Mouths. It's not an animal you want to get bit by and end up in the hospital with," said Ken Alfier.

Ken Alfier is a herpetologist and is trained to handle these types of snakes.

"What do you think about the fact that I was able to just get this so easy?"

"I'm sad that they didn't ask your age. That should be a requirement. Getting it this easy most people know what they're getting into and know what they're dealing with. It's certainly not for the beginner or novice. You hope it doesn't end up in the wrong hands."

According to a study by the University of Florida there are 7,000 venomous snake bites a year here in the U.S. and 15 deaths.

"If you look across the country, in the U.S., nobody's ever been hurt by somebody else's venomous snake. It's never happened in the keeping of the whole trade."


"Yes I have an emergency. My friend has a snake for a pet and I think he just strangled him."

We got a hold of this 911 call. An Ohio man was found dead by his girlfriend after his pet Boa Constrictor wrapped around his head. He was strangled to death.

The federal government leaves it up to individual states and cities to decide if you can buy and keep an exotic animal as a pet.

It's legal in South Carolina, where this snake was purchased.

NBC12 Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin says there is no prohibition in Virginia code against ownership or the importing of poisonous snakes. But he says each city or county in the state, might have its own local ordinance banning poisonous snakes.

In case you're wondering what happened to the snake. She was donated to alligator adventure in Myrtle Beach.

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