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Apprentice arrested in escaped Ocala cobra case, FWC says

Ian NeSmith shouldn't have been alone with snake, officials say

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OCALA, Fla. – The apprentice who authorities said allowed a cobra snake to escape from its cage has been charged, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials said.

Ian NeSmith, 28, was arrested on April 7, three weeks after a yellow monocle cobra was reported missing to FWC, according to a report from News4Jax sister station WKMG.

FWC spokesman Greg Workman said a venomous reptile permit holder, Brian Purdy, contacted the FWC on March 13 at 11:15 p.m. to inform the agency that his snake had escaped its enclosure about two hours earlier in the 900 block of Northeast Fifth Street.

Purdy said, NeSmith, who was an apprentice learning to care for venomous snakes, was checking on the cobra, opened the cover of the cage, and the snake slithered out.

Wildlife officials said NeSmith should not have been left alone in the sealed room.

NeSmith is charged with violating a FWC rule.

Ian NeSmith, of Ocala, is charged with violating a FWC rule after a cobra escaped in March.
Ian NeSmith, of Ocala, is charged with violating a FWC rule after a cobra escaped in March.

WKMG spoke with NeSmith after the charges were filed against him.

He said he was ready for all of this to be over with and declined to comment further. NeSmith said he does not currently have a lawyer.

The 2-foot-long snake has still not been located.

The process to receive a venomous reptile permit is "rigorous," and the applicant must have documentation of 1,000 hours of experience for each venomous reptile they request, the FWC said. 

There are more than 280 licensed venomous reptile permit holders in the state. 

Purdy received his last inspection on Dec. 15, officials said.

View a map of Florida venomous reptile permit holders below.


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