By Daniel Silliman
While screening the luggage coming off of a Korean Air flight, two security officers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport found 31 dead snakes, a dead bird and pieces of dead birds.
"The snakes were coiled up inside glass and plastic Mason jars," said Jonathan Allen, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman. "We alerted Fish and Wildlife immediately."
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service seized the snakes and birds, said spokesman, Jeff Fleming. The department is investigation the case.
It's not clear if the snakes were alive or dead, when they were placed in the unidentified passenger's luggage and checked onto the flight from Seoul to Atlanta. Neither TSA, nor the Fish and Wildlife Service could say what someone would do with the snakes in the United States.
Twenty of the snakes were Asiatic cobras, one was a King Cobra, and 10 have not yet been identified, Fleming said. Cobras are a protected species, and under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, it is illegal to move them.
The TSA is also opposed to the transportation of snakes, because the cobras are poisonous.
"The one caution we got from Fish and Wildlife," Allen said, "is that even though the snakes are dead, they may still be carrying poison and could be dangerous."
The security officers seemed to take the discovery in stride, though. They said that since they handle baggage on international flights, they've seen snakes and other animals packed in bags before.
According to the TSA report, Officer Dennis Madaris said, "You find animals, animal parts, anything on flights that arrive from overseas, so we have been trained on what to look for and how to safely handle what we find."
Officer Christopher Hendricks said he wasn't surprised to find snakes, in the bag, but just that there were so many snakes in the bags.
"They're used to seeing a lot of weird things coming in," Allen, the TSA spokesman, said. He said the weirdest find he's heard of was from a flight to Puerto Rico, in which TSA officers found a man with a baby alligator taped to the inside of his leg.
"A baby alligator," Allen said. "He actually had it in a sock."
The man was reportedly trying to smuggle the reptile into New York City.