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Pit viper bite victim charged with wildlife law violations

News Release

Friday, August 27, 2010

Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-227-3830

A Tampa man who authorities say violated numerous safety regulations for owning captive venomous snakes was bitten by his pet Gaboon viper. He ended up in the hospital and now faces multiple charges.

On the afternoon of Aug. 24, Lt. Steve DeLacure of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received a report that a venomous pet snake bit a Tampa man. DeLacure immediately headed to the victim's residence, where the bite had taken place. What he found was chilling: an evacuated house and displaced occupants who had no idea where the 18-inch-long Gaboon viper might be hiding inside.

DeLacure, a veteran FWC investigator who specializes in captive wildlife, carefully searched the home and found the pet pit viper in its aquarium, with no top on it.

The snake's owner and bite victim, Jamie DePriest (DOB, 01/25/79), of 3649 W. Anderson Ave., Tampa, admitted he was aware of Florida laws regarding captive venomous snakes. He now faces eight second-degree misdemeanor charges:

  • Unlawful possession of a venomous reptile (no permit);
  • Failure to meet minimum standard caging requirements (no top);
  • Failure to microchip the snake;
  • Failure to post venomous-reptile warning signs;
  • Failure to maintain a cage closure identification system (species identification on cage);
  • Failure to maintain a venomous bite protocol;
  • Failure to maintain a critical incident plan; and
  • Failure to maintain source-of-acquisition records.

Each charge is punishable by up to $500 and/or 60 days in jail.

Once bitten, DePriest drove himself to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was admitted and treated for a bite to his left index finger. DeLacure interviewed DePriest at the hospital and then filed charges. The bite victim claims to have bought the snake in New York and brought it to Florida.

Because of concerns expressed by an interested party over the safety of the children living in the home, the FWC investigator took his findings to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Child Services Investigative Unit, which is conducting an independent investigation into the matter. Two minor children occupy the home with DePriest and his girlfriend.

Possession, care and sale of venomous reptiles in Florida is a highly regulated activity with rigorous standards for ownership, which address, among other things, caging and containment requirements, posted signage and approved written contingency plans in case of emergency. For more information about Florida's captive wildlife regulations, visit

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