A young Northern Irish woman has told how she screamed in horror at finding an 18-inch long snake in her cutlery drawer.
20-year-old Joanne Woods from Ballymoney came face to face with the black and yellow beast on Monday evening.
Joanne and her boyfriend Aaron Moore, 26, were watching television in their first floor flat in Trinity Drive when she went into the kitchen to get a yoghurt.
She opened her top drawer for a spoon but instead nearly reached for the mice-eating Californian King snake which can grow up to four feet in length.
“I just screamed and threw the yoghurt in the air,” said Joanne.
“I ran out and the snake and drawer fell onto the floor.
“My boyfriend ran in but we were scared it would be poisonous given its colours - black and yellow.”
Joanne said she rang the USPCA and Ballymoney Council but neither came to her aid. She then contacted the police but had to keep an eye on her unwelcome guest for over an hour until they arrived.
“By this stage we had pulled the snake and drawer into the living room and it just sat curled in a ball,” continued Joanne.
“When the police arrived they said they had never seen anything like it. The vet came in a while later and just picked it up.”
Joanne fears other snakes may be lurking around her home.
“The vet thought it was a young snake so who knows if its mother is also here or if there are others which have escaped,” she said.
“I am a bit worried about it. I got a real scare.”
The snake is currently in the possession of Riada Veterinary Clinic in Ballymoney.
Keith Laughlin, a vet at Riada, said he was surprised no-one had come forward to collect the snake.
“We have been told it is a Californian King snake,” he said.
“It isn't venomous and poses no danger to anyone handling it.
“It is in good condition and has obviously been looked after so I would have expected someone to claim it by now.
“But we will keep it for another while and then if nobody comes forward, try to re-home it.”
The snake — which measures 18 inches in length — feeds on small mice.
A police spokesman said: “We don't believe this snake was wild so it must belong to someone in the area and we are trying to identify the owner.”
One person who certainly won't be claiming the snake is Joanne. Asked if she would consider it as a pet should its owner not come forward, she replied: “Definitely not! You must be joking!”
A near-by tenant, who did not want to be identified, said she would only move back to her Trinity Drive flat after the Housing Executive carry out a full sweep of the building.
The woman, who lives alone, was in England when she got a call from her sister to tell her about the snake being found in the flat above hers.
She says she has contacted the Housing Executive who are in charge of the flats and has asked them to check her property to make sure there are no similar ‘squatters' residing there.
However, they have yet to visit the property, she claimed.
In a statement, the Housing Executive said: “Following this incident, if the neighbouring tenant contacts the District Maintenance Manager at the local office, he will arrange to have her flat checked to allay any concerns she may have.”
From The Belfast Telegraph