Poisonous snake bite prompts investigation

Kingsland police, Georgia DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife all looking for snake, seller

KINGSLAND, Ga. - Local, state and federal authorities are investigating after a Jacksonville man claimed he was bitten early Monday morning near Kingsland, Ga., by a snake he was about to buy.

John Rosenbaum, 22, told Kingsland police that he traveled to Exit 3 of Interstate 95  about 2:30 a.m. to meet someone to buy a black mamba, a venomous snake native to Africa.

Rosenbaum said that the snake escaped briefly during the transaction, and he was bitten as he was trying to recapture the snake. Rosenbaum was treated at the Southeast Georgia Medical Center campus in St. Marys and transported to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center in Jacksonville for additional treatment.

"Their venom is highly toxic," said Steve Gott, supervisor of herpetology at the Jacksonville Zoo. "It causes some abdominal pain, dizziness, drowsiness. Eventually, if untreated, the person will succumb to suffocation -- paralyzation of the respiratory muscles."

After the zoo got a call from the Poison Information Center in Atlanta before dawn Monday, Gott rushed some anti-venom to Shands.  Rosenbaum has since been released from the hospital.

The whereabouts of the snake is not known, but neither is do authorities know anything about the person who was allegedly going to sell it. 

Steve Gott, supervisor of herpetology with the zoo, tried to help Georgia authorities recover the snake.

"Myself and another keeper went up there to retrieve it, but unfortunately it was not there," Gott said. "There was a container labeled 'venous snake' with a lock on it, and we got it out of an impounded car. But as far as I know, the snake's whereabouts are still unknown."

Because possession of a non-native, dangerous snakes such as a black mamba is allowed only by permit in Georgia and no one in the state holds such a permit, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the incident.

According to George DNR records, Rosenbaum does not hold a wild animal license from the state.

Violations of Georgia's statute prohibiting owning or transporting such a species are misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Investigators are looking into details of the reported seller and working to verify the location of the snake that Rosenbaum said bit him.

The Camden County Sheriff's Office is also assisting in the investigation.