By Diana Falzone, ,
Published May 02, 2016
“Airplane Repo” reality star Mike Kennedy is dealing with a different kind of real-life drama. A week ago, the wildlife conservationist had a King Cobra escape from his animal sanctuary in Florida. The snake is still on the loose, creating panic in his town. Kennedy spoke with FOX411 via Skype to explain how the deadly snake got loose and what is being done to find it.
FOX411: So what is the status of the escaped snake?
Mike Kennedy: Everything possible is being done. The animal hasn’t been found but we’re back in very dense forest with a lot of land to cover and snakes are kind of masters of not being seen if they don’t want to be seen. We have a lot of people searching the woods everyday, myself included. We have funnel box traps that biologist friends of mine at NASA have brought over that they do population studies with. We set them all over the property. We’ve been exploring infrared technologies if that might help. I don’t think there’s enough temperature differential in body temperatures there for that to really work but everybody’s pulling out the stops trying to help in any way they possibly can. It’s really been pretty amazing how people have shown up wanting to jump in and help in any way they could. It’s been a week.
FOX411: How did it escape?
Kennedy: We had some pretty violent weather what was the tail end of Erica. We had several big trees down and a lot of flooding. There was some pretty big massive limbs [that] fell on the building and broke through the roof which caused some water leaks just strategically right over the cage, and it made a real soggy area that the animal managed to take advantage of and pushed a vent out just enough to get out. It was just kind of a sequence of events that was really pretty unpreventable. The cages had just been inspected and approved by the state many times in inspections. The building is secure. It was just kind of a mouse trap of events and very unfortunate.
FOX411: Has one of your snakes ever escaped before?
Kennedy: Unfortunately, 15 years ago I had a very similar situation happen and of course that’s come back to haunt me. Unbelievably it was very much along these same lines.
FOX411: Do you feel responsible?
Kennedy: Absolutely. They didn’t charge me with any kind of fault for this. It was just an unforeseen event but still it’s a big responsibility having an animal like this and I really feel for the fear that people have felt. A lot of people don’t understand that it’s just the name itself. It’s a scary name. In those woods, there are big snakes; rattle snakes, water moccasins, coral snakes. This guy is a wild animal. His concern is just staying out of the way and staying hidden. The only way I can assure anybody that he would even try to defend himself is if he was absolutely cornered or physically restrained. You come across him, chances are you wouldn’t even see him because he sees you coming way in advance, and he’s going to try and run and hide; that’s their nature. They’re allusive, they’re smart, they’re aware and he’s absolutely going to stay out of the way.
FOX411: To be clear, this snake is not your pet. Can you explain your background handling exotic animals and how you work with the state of Florida to help these rescued animals.
Kennedy: These animals are not pets. There is no such thing as a pet cobra. We have a non-profit organization called Dragon Ranch on this property and we have been working with the state of Florida for many years. Most of the animals there are all rescues. We’re one of the very few private facilities licensed with the state of Florida to rescue and rehabilitate injured American crocodiles. A lot of the snakes we have are fire department calls or police department calls. If Pythons are found, they are usually taken in and euthanized, but I have a soft heart so I’ve taken several in which I question my judgment on that because they eat a lot.
FOX411: How has this impacted you?
Kennedy: It’s brought a lot of negative publicity on us, and we do a lot of good. One of the things I really try to help and work with is the invasive species problem in Florida which is a hotbed of reptiles and birds and fish and mammals even plants that have been, many of them, let go on purpose. A lot of the animals we brought in are animals that that happened to. It’s really discouraging that now we caused part of that problem. I’ve been getting beat up pretty bad, and part of it I probably deserve, or I wouldn’t even be in this situation.
FOX411: Do you have the anti-venom specifically for this kind of snake readily on hand?
Kennedy: I have ten vials of it in my refrigerator.
FOX411: What do you hope happens next?
Kennedy: My primary goal is that I hope he would be found. As much as I want to alleviate the fears of the public and the safety of the public, the ideal situation would be that the animal is found and no harm comes to him either, and if he isn’t found with the dense woods that he’s in that chance is possible but his survival in that area is very slim. Most of the invasive species is in south Florida but north there it’s pretty much self-correcting. We really don’t have a python problem because they just can’t survive. Winter comes along and they die. I’m not going to say it’s a 100 percent, nothing is 100 percent, but chances are he can’t survive if he doesn’t turn up.