A surge in runaway snakes in Britain has been caused by hotter weather and some 200,000 more of the reptiles being kept as pets this year, it was claimed today.
Recent weeks have seen a host of cases of snakes on the loose, most recently in the West Midlands yesterday when a huge 12ft python had to be removed from the street by police.
Data from UK Pet Food reveals how the number of snakes being kept in homes has soared from 500,000 to 700,000 in 12 months, while the RSPCA said it received 1,031 reports involving the reptiles last year.
The problem is particularly severe in the summer, as they become more active in warmer temperatures.
The charity’s senior scientific officer Evie Button said: ‘Snakes are excellent escape artists and will take the opportunity of a gap in an enclosure door, or a loose-fitting lid to make a break for it.
A huge 12ft python had to be removed from the street by police in the West Midlands yesterday
Officers in Aston, Birmingham were left shocked in June when they came across a boa constrictor
Just days later, another huge snake was spotted emerging from a shop in the same part of Birmingham
‘Last year, we took more than one thousand reports about snakes, with the highest number of calls coming in during the summer months.
‘This is not surprising, as snakes become more active during hot weather – so as the UK continues to swelter this summer, we’re braced for another influx of calls.
‘The RSPCA urges all pet snake owners to be extra vigilant at this time of year, invest in an enclosure suitable for the particular species and make sure that enclosure is kept secure – and locked if necessary – when unattended.
‘We received nearly 1.1 million calls to our emergency line in 2022 – an increase of 1.6% on the previous year, and our frontline officers are flat out trying to rescue animals that may be in life-threatening situations.
‘So a few extra minutes checking that your snake is secure could help save our officers’ time and allow them to save an animal that’s in danger.’
Inexperienced keepers have been urged to pay special attention to their pet snakes due to the rise in escapees. Pythons, boa constrictors and corn snakes are three of the most popular species to keep.
There are three snakes native to Britain: the adder, which is venomous; the grass snake, which is harmless and commonly found in gardens; and the smooth snake.
But according to Sunday Times, there are also around 30 aescalupians – a type of rat snake native to Europe which can grow more than six feet long – currently living in the undergrowth along Regent’s Canal in London. They live off rats.
Another reason why more snakes escape in the summer is that some owners take them outside to take advantage of the natural sunlight, which causes them to warm up and move quickly, the RSPCA said.
Last year shocking photos captured the terrifying moment a n escaped 18ft long python tried to enter a house through an open window in Southampton
Ms Button added: ‘Many of the snakes the RSPCA’s officers are called to collect are thought to be escaped pets.
‘But sadly, we also have to deal with a lot of abandoned snakes. We find that many people are unaware of how much of a commitment these animals are when they take them on, which we believe contributes to the hundreds of animals every year who have sadly been abandoned when their owners can no longer meet their needs.
‘Exotic pets such as snakes often end up in the RSPCA’s care after people realise they’re not easy to care for, or the novelty wears off.
‘Others are rescued after they have been abandoned or been released on purpose, which then could pose a risk to our native wildlife.
‘The needs of reptiles can be challenging to meet because they are just the same as they would be in the wild and are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions that can be difficult to replicate in a domestic environment.
‘The RSPCA urges prospective owners of reptiles such as snakes to thoroughly research the needs of the particular species and what is required in the care of the animal, using expert sources.
‘People should only consider keeping a snake if they can ensure they are fully able to provide for these needs.’
It comes after police arrived in West Bromwich at around 1.30am on Tuesday to discover a yellow python – one of world’s biggest snakes which are native to Southeast Asia – in the middle of the road.
But with the RSPCA unable to attend due to the time of the call, it took three brave response officers to step in to rescue it.
After putting a bag over its head and ushering it into a police van, the slippery suspect was taken to a vets to be checked over.
It was the latest in a string of recent incidents, with officers in Aston, Birmingham being left shocked in June when they came across a boa constrictor.
A snake was discovered on a train carriage that would typically travel between London, Kent and Sussex last December
Three officers bravely ushered the reptile into a pillow case with the help of a broom at the side of the road.
Just days later, another huge snake was spotted emerging from a shop in the same part of Birmingham.
It was caught by staff at a nearby butchers who lured it into a pipe before placing it into a plastic container.
In December, a 3ft corn snake caused panic when it was discovered living in a Southern Rail carriage.
The reptile was found crawling along the carriage floor by staff at the Selhurst Train Depot in Croydon.
They contacted the British Transport Police, who were not impressed by the slimy unexpected visitor.
Workers managed to corner the reptile and put it into a bag to remove it from the carriage.
And earlier last year, shocking photos captured the terrifying moment an escaped 18ft long python tried to enter a house through an open window in Southampton.
The ‘very dangerous’ snake, which weighs 6 stone (38kg), was spotted by neighbours as it made its way across a roof before forcing its way through the upstairs window.
Fearful residents inside managed to use a broom handle to fight off the the albino Burmese Python and poke it back out, before it fell 20ft onto the bonnet of a car below.
A neighbour then looked after the huge serpent in her conservatory until it woke up.