Venomous snake found in Niagara Falls truck
African coral cobra being transported to reptile zoo
A Niagara Falls man found more than he was bargaining for when he looked to see what his cat was playing with in the bed of his pickup truck.
Sam O’Shea went outside his Seneca Street home shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, made his way to his truck and discovered that his cat was playing with a snake in the truck bed. When he shooed the cat away, the snake became aggressive.
That’s when he decided he needed help. He called around and was put in touch with Connor Boese, who has experience with snakes.
“I was already on the road, I had been running errands in Welland and was on my way back to St. Catharines when I got the call,” said Boese, adding he altered his route to go help O’Shea.
Boese has owned snakes and reptiles for most of his adult life. While in the past he’s had constrictors and various types of lizards, he currently owns a corn snake.
Once he arrived at O’Shea’s house, about 9:30 p.m., he set about capturing the 0.6-metrelong snake.
“He had gone up inside the truck frame and I knew we had to let it come out on its own accord. I didn’t know what kind of snake it was so I didn’t want to reach in there and grab him,” said Boese.
What does one use to lure a snake? Boese was succinct in his reply: patience.
“Knowing the snake is a nocturnal hunter, I knew he’d come out,” he said. “You have to take the lights away, and just sort of do surveillance on the truck until he came out.”
Once the snake emerged from the truck, Boese used a container to trap him. He posted photos of the snake on the Canadian Herpetological Society’s Facebook page and its members helped to identify the snake type: an African coral cobra.
Bry Loyst, director and president of Indian River Reptile Zoo, said the venomous snakes are
potentially deadly, and an antivenin for its bite does not exist.
“It’s not just that the antivenin isn’t available in Canada, one doesn’t exist anywhere for this type of snake,” said Loyst.
Boese sealed the snake in a double containment and reached out to Loyst, as director of Canada’s only registered nonprofit reptile zoo, for help.
“I was shocked I had gotten away so lucky,” he said. “I made sure to take precautions so it couldn’t get out again. I’d like to take more care than whoever it was that brought it here.”
Loyst said venomous snakes like this aren’t the garden variety type and would have come to the area through an underground market. Because of that it’s hard to determine how many coral cobras exist as pets in Ontario.
“It’s pretty rare to see coral cobras escaped or released in Ontario though, it’s definitely not common,” he said.
On Tuesday, Loyst made his way to St. Catharines to pick up the snake from Boese. It will be brought back to the Indian River Reptile Zoo, located about 15 kilometres east of Peterborough. The zoo has hundreds of reptiles and operates on a donation basis.
“The lesson here is if you have exotic pets, you have to act responsibly. If you don’t want it anymore, you don’t just release it — reach out to us and we’ll take it for you,” said Loyst.
“If you see exotic pets out in the wild, don’t approach them. Call in an expert.
“The man who picked it up got lucky.”
Bry Loyst, of Indian River Reptile Zoo, east of Peterborough, carefully places an African coral cobra into a safe carrying case after removing it from a holding tank in St. Catharines resident Connor Boese’s home.