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Saturday, April 05, 2014 - Hunt for Snake Near Starting Line of Bridge Run

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) – A crew from the Edisto Island Serpentarium is heading out to an apartment complex near the Cooper River Bridge Run starting line, searching for what could be a highly venomous snake.
According to a release sent to residents of the Harbor Pointe Apartments, the skin of a Gaboon Viper was found on the property. The notice was sent to residents late Thursday afternoon.

"We have searched for the snake but have not had any luck finding it. We are trying to find someone to come out and find it and catch it," the letter read. "Please keep your animals out of the bushes and watch where they are walking as well!"

Apartment staff said workers with pest control were filling a rodent trap against the front wall of the Information Office when the skin was found. They said they thought it was a rattlesnake skin until the got it stretched out and tacked up on a board.

Harbor Point staff members called the Edisto Serpentarium and the Department of Natural Resources. They said they described the skin over the phone and that's how they concluded that the skin could belong to a Gaboon Viper. They wanted to wait until experts saw the skin in person before commenting.

The Gaboon Viper is commonly found in the rainforests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa and is considered both the largest member of the genus Bitis and the world's heaviest viperid.

The fangs of the snake can be up to two inches long and it has the highest venom yield of any venomous snake.
It is also considered highly aggressive.

An official at Roper St. Francis Hospital said Friday night that emergency rooms in the area are stocked with antivenom for snakes found in this area with a drug called Crofab, but there are only a handful of places in North America that stock anti-venom for a Gaboon viper since it is not native to this part of the world.

Officials at Roper St. Francis said that doctors trying to treat a Gaboon viper bite would likely call the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia for assistance in getting access to the antivenom.

Reptile expert Raymond Covington said it may be too late to save a person who has a bite wound from a Gaboon viper because an adult could die in 30 minutes from the bite. Covington said the snake is deadly because it injects all of its venom into its prey when it bites.

Harbor Pointe resident David Berardino said there's just one bush separating his home from where the skin was found.

"I laughed my tail off and read the letter to my wife," he said. "It's a crazy thing to go through all that we have in life and then maybe die by some rare African viper."

Berardino only has a turtle so his pet's safety doesn't worry him as much as his neighbors.

"I have a cat and a dog," said Maureen Walker. Her house is right across from where the skin was found. "My cat lives in the bushes and that's where my dog does his business, so I'm like, great!" 

The snake, if it is indeed a Gaboon Viper, is not native to South Carolina.

The letter to residents at the complex speculated that it may have been someone's pet or that it might have slithered in from one of the cargo holds at the port.

If it was someone's pet, Mt. Pleasant Police said that owner was breaking town ordinances, which states:
"It shall be unlawful for any person to keep, maintain, or have in his or her possession or control within the town any poisonous reptile or any other dangerous or carnivorous wild animal or reptile, any vicious or dangerous domesticated animal or any other animal or reptile of wild, vicious, or dangerous propensities."

Inspector Chip Googe with Mt. Pleasant Police Department said this includes poisonous reptiles and rear-fanged snakes.


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