A restaurant owner is under investigation after he apparently tried to sell the meat of a cottonmouth moccasin to customers, police said.

Eddie Boone, a city worker, said he sold the owner of James Quality Market the venomous snake, which he had killed with a pipe while he was cleaning streets.

The snake "was gonna get me so I had to get him first," he said.

Boone said that while he was showing off the snake nearby Thursday, the owner of the grocery store-restaurant combo "came out and asked me if he could buy the snake for a dollar."

Police Chief Bobby Joe Williams went to the market after Boone mentioned the odd business transaction to police. The owner gave him the snake, which already had been skinned and filleted, Williams said.

"He was getting ready to cook and serve the snake," Williams said. "We want to see just what all this man has been cooking."

Investigators have declined to identify the businessman. The store has remained open.

Lee Ellington, a law enforcement officer for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said it is illegal to buy or sell a non-game species. Penalties could include a maximum $5,000 fine, five days in jail and suspension of hunting and fishing privileges.

Municipal court clerk Cecilia Bland said putting a snake in a commercial freezer also could violate health codes, but she added that police have had trouble getting the health department to investigate.

Ellington said the businessman could have put his customers at risk by selling the meat.

"There are some Texas farmers that do serve rattlesnake, but they are professionals in detoxing the snake," Ellington said. "Odds are that this man is not a professional."