Snake owners have been warned to be extra vigilant as the RSPCA braces for a rise in snakes escaping due to hot weather.
It comes after a stray, six-foot boa constrictor was found under a garden shed in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.
The snake, which was healthy and in good condition, has been rehomed after no owner could be identified.
With the heatwave set to continue, the RSPCA is advising snake owners to be careful and to double check animal enclosures are securely fastened.
RSPCA senior scientific officer Evie Button called snakes “excellent escape artists”, and said they often take advantage of gaps in doors or loose-fitting lids to make a break for it.
“Last year, we took more than 1,000 reports about snakes, with the highest number of calls coming in during the summer months,” she said.
“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 charity is urging all pet snake owners to be extra vigilant, invest in suitable enclosures and make sure they are kept secure and locked – especially when unattended.
Another reason why more snakes escape in the summer is that some owners take them outside to take advantage of the natural sunlight.
Earlier this month, a man was spotted sunbathing with 20 of his snakes in Paisley’s Barshaw Park.
While sunlight is good for reptiles, the charity says owners should ensure their pet is secure when doing so, as they can warm up and move very quickly on a sunny day.
“Many of the snakes the RSPCA’s officers are called to collect are thought to be escaped pets,” Ms Button continued.
“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 charity’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 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,” Ms Button said.
“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.”
Without proper care they can suffer from serious diseases, dehydration, injuries, parasites, and in severe cases or if left untreated, they can eventually die.
Most exotic animals kept as pets are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild in Britain and non-native species could pose a serious threat to our native wildlife.
It is illegal to release, or to allow to escape, any species that are not normally native to the UK.