Sharing her experience, Diana Martin, 69, says she was making pottery in her garden in Enfield, Liverpool, on Saturday when a flash of red near her guttering caught her attention. At first, Diana thought it was her hose, but when the object started to move, she “froze.”
Speaking to the Liverpool EchoDiana said: “I walked into my garden and out of the corner of my eye I thought my garden hose was red. My immediate reaction was that my hose was bleached in the sun, but on closer inspection it wasn’t.
“It looked up and I said, ‘Oh my God!’ The only thing that kept coming into my head was that it was poison, so I just froze.”
After trying and failing to get through to Animal Rescue, Diane called the local police station, who immediately arranged for an RSPCA inspector to collect the snake.
Diana said: “The police were on the scene and sent someone within the hour, which is probably not surprising when someone calls to say there’s a big red snake in their garden! While I was waiting for the RSPCA officer to arrive I just sat and watched the snake and it started to go down the drain. I thought, “we won’t be able to find him.”
“I started to think he might be thirsty so I turned the tap on and he came back and started drinking and drank for ten minutes. He lifted his head and I swear he looked me in the eye and tried to say thank you.’
Upon arrival, RSCPA inspector Anthony Joynes confirmed that the snake was in fact a North American corn snake. Corn snakes are one of the North American rat snake species that kill their prey by crushing. They are not poisonous or dangerous to humans, although the RSPCA advises anyone who finds a snake they think is foreign, like this corn snake, to keep a safe distance.
Diana said: “Anthony was wonderful. He knew his business and knew how to handle a snake. He was a truly wonderful man. He was gentle and immediately knew what it was. The snake was a brawler. It didn’t want to leave my drain, so it got really annoying when Anthony tried to move it. I was alarmed by the rattle of the tail because I thought, “Oh my God, it’s a rattlesnake!” but I was reassured that it was perfectly normal for the snake to cross.’
The RSPCA said it collects more snakes during the summer months and some are believed to be escaped pets. Corn snakes can be extremely good escapers and will take advantage of an opportunity to escape through a gap or loose cover.
Owners may also not understand the financial issues involved. For example, most exotics, including reptiles, require carefully controlled conditions that require access to specialized lighting equipment and round-the-clock heating. Also, many of these animals can live for decades, making it a long-term responsibility for the exotic pet keeper.
It is believed the snake, rescued from an address in Enfield, may have been dumped or may have escaped from its enclosure.
Anthony said: “The exotics expert noticed a broken rib and it looks like this snake was run over by a car or motorbike. But there were no signs of neglect and it could have escaped from its enclosure, so the owner can get in touch with us.
“Luckily I have a vivarium at home so he stayed with me for the night even though I was advised not to feed him. He was a very good snake and I think the aggression he showed was just a bit of fear.”
He added: “I took him to a specialist reptile rescue and noticed that there were more and more cases like this, so you wonder about the electricity bills going up and whether people are turning off their vivariums.
“I spoke to the specialist warden about this when I handed the snake over to him and he stressed that they are not that expensive to keep so it’s best that owners don’t make rash decisions.”
Anyone with any information about the Wirral corn snake should contact the RSPCA hotline on 0300 123 8018. The RSPCA is also advising anyone who finds the snake to keep a safe distance and call the charity’s helpline on 0300 1234 999 or to a local reptile charity.