Chapel Hill News

King cobra bite leaves Orange County man in critical condition

A 21-year-old man remained in critical condition Tuesday at UNC Hospitals after being bitten by his pet king cobra, one of the deadliest of all venomous snakes.

EMS workers responding to a 911 call about the bite picked up Ali Iyoob on N.C. 54, about two miles west of Carrboro.

Hospital spokesman Tom Hughes confirmed that Iyoob was being treated but could not provide additional information.

Iyoob had been driving himself to the hospital from his house for about five minutes when he called 911.

“I just got bit by a king cobra, and I’m on my way to the hospital,” he said in the call.

“My vision’s kind of blurry. I’m sweating like crazy,” he said. “I don’t know if (pulling over is) a good idea or not. I want to get to the hospital as fast as I can.”

The operator talked Iyoob, who was groaning and starting to panic, into pulling over his Honda Civic near the intersection of Timothy Lane and N.C. 54.

“I need to throw up,” he said.

He left the car and lay down in the grass by the highway to wait for the ambulance, which arrived minutes later.

Officials did not disclose where Iyoob lives, but Orange County Animal Services said having the snake violated a county ordinance against keeping wild and dangerous animals.

The department is also working with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the N.C. Zoological Park to determine whether there is a violation of state law, which requires housing venomous reptiles, large constricting snakes and crocodilians in sturdy, labeled enclosures and having a recovery plan if one gets loose.

At a brief news conference Tuesday, Animal Services Director Bob Marotto said investigators found more than 20 snakes – including some that were venomous and others constricting – in Iyoob’s home, as well as a dog, cat and unspecified fowl. He did not know whethers the birds were being kept as food for the snakes.

The animals were secure in the home, and there was no threat to the public, Marotto said. The county was working with the museum to house the snakes.

Marotto said he had never encountered a cobra bite incident.

“In the folklore of animal control I have never heard of such an incident in Orange County, and I’ve been in the field almost a quarter of a century. And while I’ve read about incidents of this kind, I have never had one occur in a jurisdiction in which I’ve been serving,” he said.

Iyoob was a biology major who left UNC in 2015, he told the 911 operator. His current occupation is listed on Facebook as a beekeeper with Eurofins Scientific, a Luxembourg-based laboratory services company.

Iyoob is well-known in the bird-watching community, according to online blogs, posting numerous photos of snakes, birds, fish and other animals on Facebook and Flickr.

Marotto said he did not know why Iyoob had so many snakes.

“It appears this was a hobby and a deep fascination with reptiles that he had,” he said.

Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Schultz: 919-829-8950

How deadly?

While the king cobra’s venom is not as toxic as that of some highly venomous species, the sheer volume produced in a single bite is enough to kill 20 to 30 adult humans or a fully grown Asian elephant.

Source: Detroit Zoo