Update: Hunt for missing cobra believed to have killed handler is canceled

A Monocled Cobra.

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A Monocled Cobra.

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Austin Animal Protection said Thursday afternoon it would conduct an organized search for a venomous cobra Friday morning.

>>FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Austin police say death investigated as possible suicide, according to report.

The search will center around the North Austin Lowe’s hardware store, where it is believed the snake slithered away after fatally biting an 18-year-old Temple man.

The search team will consist of about 10 people, including Animal Protection employees, reptile experts and herpetologists. The search will begin at 8 a.m. and will go through the parking lot and grass areas nearby, Animal Services spokeswoman Patricia Fraga said.

The missing monocle cobra that may have killed Grant Thompson on Tuesday. Thompson was found unresponsive in his car and was pronounced dead a short time later. Authorities said he had  puncture wounds on his wrist, and a snakebite apparently killed him. Foul play was not suspected.

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Thompson worked at the Temple pet store Fish Bowl Pet Express, which is owned by his mother, Seleese Thompson-Mann, according to the Temple Daily Telegram. The store was open Thursday, and when reached via phone an employee who only gave his name as Bren said Thompson was fearless with animals and well-loved.

“He could handle tarantulas like they were kittens,” he said. “He loved animals and loved spreading awareness about animals in the community.”

Six tarantulas, a foot-long non-venomous Mexican hognose snake and an African bullfrog were found inside Thompson's vehicle. Austin Reptile Service owner Tim Cole retrieved the animals.

The Austin area is home to four species of venomous snakes — the western diamondback rattlesnake, the coral snake, the copperhead and the cottonmouth. But poisonous snakes are rare, Cole said. The only one that is relatively common is the rattlesnake, and bites usually happen when someone is handling the snake.

About 3,000 snakebites happen each year in Texas, Cole said.