Authorities in Georgia and Florida this month busted an illegal venomous snake operation after an undercover investigation into the sale of around 200 cobras, vipers and others.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, law enforcement officials from both states’ wildlife agencies have been investigating the black market trade in the animals since 2021.

“These are some of the deadliest snakes in the world,” said Major Bob Holley, who oversees special operations in the Law Enforcement Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “If these snakes break free or someone has to handle a person who is not properly trained, these snakes are deadly.”

According to Holley, there is no antidote for all snakes treated in Georgia. And he said if one of the snakes escapes, it could harm local wildlife as well.

Seven of the suspected wildlife traffickers have been arrested in Florida. Georgia officers simultaneously arrested an eighth person. Holley said the Georgia suspect had 27 venomous snakes in his vehicle when he was pulled over and arrested while driving down I-75 in Monroe County.

Holley said undercover work like this is an integral part of what his agency does.

“I’ll be honest with you — we buy a lot of snakes,” he said.

Holley said a Georgia facility licensed to handle venomous snakes will keep them until after a court hearing. Then the snakes can be taken to zoos, aquariums, and other places that are established and licensed to keep them safe.