Slithering Escapee: Egyptian Cobra on the Loose at Bronx Zoo

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Nasser Nuri / REUTERS

Visitors to the Bronx Zoo might be disappointed to find out they can’t get into the popular Reptile House in the park today. But it’s for a good reason: zoo officials say an adolescent Egyptian cobra has been slithering around loose somewhere in the facility.

The 20-inch serpent, which escaped from its enclosed space Saturday afternoon, has has yet to be found. But zoo workers are on the hunt for the deadly snake, which experts in the species’ behavior believe will stay hidden until it becomes hungry or thirsty, compelling it to seek nourishment.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 zoo escapes)

“When the snake gets hungry or thirsty it will start to move around the building,” Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny, said in a statement. “Once that happens, it will be our best opportunity to recover it.”

Officials believe the snake is still in an area where it won’t be able to reach the public, and does not like open spaces, so the likelihood of human contact is minimal. Still, in antiquity, this particular type of snake was called an asp, is native to regions near Egypt, and is highly venomous if it bites.

No word on whether or not the Bronx Zoo plans on letting loose a mongoose or hiring a snake charmer. (via New York Daily News)

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