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Snake warning as hot UK weather sees pets escaping at record levels

Warnings in place as reptiles escaping from owners’ homes

Holly Hales
Monday 26 June 2023 12:48 BST
Customs intercept 600 snakes

Snake owners have been warned to keep a close eye on their pets throughout the summer months when a large number of the reptiles escape their enclosures.

The RSPCA gave the new insight after calls to its hotline reached record levels during the UK’s latest heatwaves.

Senior scientific officer at the RSPCA, Evie Button, said the snakes’ behaviour and need to be released are largely influenced by the weather.

Grass snakes are often found in the UK (Getty Images)

“The warmer they are, the more active they are so that’s why they escape a lot more in summer,” she told The Sunday Times.

Last year, before the spike, the RSPCA still received more than 100 calls each month about escaped snakes.

The organisation issued a similar warning earlier this month, saying: “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.”

The RSPCA went on to say the behaviour of owners during the warmer weather is a big contributor to the escapes.

“Another reason why more snakes escape in the summer is that some owners take them outside to take advantage of the natural sunlight,” the statement read.

“While sunlight is good for reptiles, the RSPCA urges owners to ensure that their pet is kept 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.”

Another reason behind the spike in escapes is believed to be the number of snakes being kept as pets jumping from 500,000 to 700,000 in the past 12 months.

Britain is home to just three types of native snakes including the adder, which is venomous.

The other two are the grass snake, which is often found in gardens and the smooth snake.

However, more than 30 types of aesculapian, which typically live near canals, can be found.

Aesculapian are a type of rat snake found natively across Europe that often grow to be more than six feet long

Pet snakes are typically completely dependent on their owners and are unlikely to survive in the wild in the UK.

It is illegal to release, or to allow to escape, any species that is not native, including snakes.

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