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Officials Say Venomous Snakes, Alligators Seized From Reptile Collector In Ventura County

It's the last thing you'd expect to find in a quiet Ventura County neighborhood.  What amounted to a private zoo had venomous snakes, alligators, and other reptiles in a residential area of Thousand Oaks.

It was a staggering discovery. Authorities say a man had a huge reptile collection at his Rancho Lane home, and more at an isolated facility outside of the city. They found, and seized about 80 venomous snakes at the home, along with the alligators and other animals.

Marsha Mayeda, the Director of Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control, says while Todd Kates had permits for some of his reptiles, many were unpermitted. And, even with the permits, poisonous snakes aren’t legal in residential areas like Thousand Oaks. Officials say Kates was arrested, but charges he may face are unclear.

Neighbors like Pat Fitzwater were shaken, saying it’s the last thing you’d expect to find in the area.

It’s the same neighborhood where a venomous white monocle cobra was spotted in 2014, and eventually captured. No one claimed ownership of the snake, and it was taken to the San Diego Zoo where it still lives.

Several weeks ago, a woman ran over a snake in the neighborhood, prompting the investigation which led to the Thursday morning raids. Because the snakes are so dangerous, there were paramedics on hand, and a helicopter on standby in case someone was bitten, and needed emergency treatment.

There’s one more unsettling note for residents of the Ranch Lane neighborhood. A resident reported seeing what appeared to be a cobra in his yard a few days ago, so officials caution it’s possible one of the snakes is loose in the community, and people should be wary.

There were another 20 venomous snakes at a remote facility southwest of Thousand Oaks which was licensed to handle them.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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