A Georgia Department of Natural Resources investigative team went to Zoo Atlanta Thursday and found that the tiger rattlesnake's escape resulted from human error, DNR Wildlife Resources Division assistant chief John Bowers wrote in a letter senttoday to Zoo Atlanta's deputy director, Dwight Lawson.
Bowers wrote that the zoo should review its protocols for handling quarantined reptiles and make any adjustments necessary to ensure the procedures are applied consistently.
The snake had been confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was being housed temporarily at the zoo when it escaped Aug. 27. A nearby homeowner killed the snake after finding it on his front porch.
The number of reptiles taken in by the zoo was more than its reptile quarantine facility could hold, so some of the animals, including the tiger rattlesnake, were placed in a small mammal quarantine area, the letter said. A zoo staff member responsible for the reptiles failed to secure the enclosure holding the rattlesnake.
The DNR team also inspected other parts of the zoo used to house animals and found a small stress crack in the concrete base of the off-exhibit lion enclosure. The structure was still found to be secure, but Bowers recommended that the zoo repair it.
The zoo already had someone on site to repair that crack before the DNR team left, said DNR spokeswoman Lauren Curry.
Overall, the DNR team found that Zoo Atlanta's facilities meet or exceed the requirements under Georgia law.
DNR requested that the zoo address the recommendations in the letter by October 11. The agency will then carry out a follow-up visit, but no further disciplinary action will be taken, Curry said.