Moody Gardens Checklist: Keep Venomous Snakes Contained

Why is it that Galveston's Moody Gardens is having so much trouble keeping track of its venomous snakes?

You see the words "venomous snake," you'd think it'd be something you pay a little attention to.

But for the second time in a month, an African bush viper (not pictured to the right) has gone missing. This time, foul play is suspected.

Not "foul play" as in animal murder -- the other snakes in the exhibit were X-rayed to make sure they hadn't eaten the evidence of a snake argument-gone-bad.

No, this time Moody Gardens staffers and Galveston police believe someone broke into the snake cage sometime late August 7/early August 8 and made off with the snake. (The snake has no cute name, by the way; apparently no one considers him cuddly enough.)

Jerri Hamachek, spokeswoman for Moody Gardens, tells Hair Balls that the populace shouldn't panic. Too much.

"When you hear the words 'African bush viper' it sounds pretty scary, but this is a smaller snake," she says. "It's probably 10 to 12 inches. It would be the equivalent of a bee sting to an adult."

The viper first went missing a month ago; it was found later in an hidden area of the snake exhibit that it shouldn't have been able to reach. And then, when staffers checked on Friday morning, it was once again gone.

This time it looked like a lock to the exhibit had been tampered with.

Hamachek wasn't sure what the black-market value of the snake would be, but she said it would be pretty rare to see it for sale.

"So if you suddenly see someone on eBay selling an African bush viper, you should call the police," she says.

-- Richard Connelly

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