Venomous snakes seized after Clearfield house fire

Posted at 5:21 PM, Jul 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-27 00:18:48-04

CLEARFIELD -- Authorities seized a half-dozen venomous snakes -- including an exotic viper -- from a home here after firefighters stumbled upon them while trying to extinguish a kitchen fire.

Firefighters responded to a home near 950 East 1150 South on Friday. Inside, firefighters found cages of snakes. Davis County Animal Control officers said that of the 28 snakes inside, five are rattlesnakes and one is a Gaboon viper; the rest are boa constrictors and pythons.

The Gaboon viper, native to Africa, is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. It has 2-inch long fangs and its venom is especially potent.

"It has very big fangs and they can strike a long ways and they're very fast, too," said Jim Dix with Reptile Rescue, which took custody of the serpents from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "So it is dangerous and it is not a beginner snake. It's not something you would want loose in a neighborhood."

Davis County Animal Control Officer Jamie Stell told FOX 13 the venomous snakes are illegal to possess in Utah.

"Because of the propensity of being bitten," she explained. "Availability of things like anti-venom, because with the viper I heard the closest anti-venom is in Florida. It's not good to have something where you can't get treatment for it."

Dix said they were well cared for and said the owner, whom he knows, knew what he was doing. Still, he said, the man did not have the permits.

State wildlife officers on scene said the man could face misdemeanor charges for possessing the venomous snakes. Formal charges would be screened at a later date.

Dix said he has been dealing with a spike in exotic pet smuggling in Utah. Over the past three years, he said, Reptile Rescue has recovered 30 alligators from various spots across the state.

"They've been loose on alfalfa farms, in the Kaysville Botanical Gardens Pond, a couple out of Hill Air Force Base that people owned illegally and one out of a Del Taco Dumpster in Lake Point," he told FOX 13.