Is the snake in my garden an escaped pet?

ARC has noticed a significant increase in phone calls and reports of non-native snakes in gardens and public spaces in recent years. Unfortunately, some irresponsible reporting in the media has caused unnecessary panic and alarm. In truth, there is little to no risk should you happen to encounter one.

There are numerous kinds of pet snake but corn snakes, king snakes, pythons and boas are the most commonly kept. Pet snakes vary widely in size, colouration and behaviour. To help with identification we have created a gallery in order to help you identify your visitor if it doesn’t look like one of our native species. You could also post a photo online, using sites such as iSpot www.ispotnature.org. If you live in a heavily built-up area, it’s more likely you’ve seen a pet snake rather than a British snake. Most are harmless, but you should check before handling. Normally they haven’t moved far from their owner, although very occasionally pet snakes are deliberately released at remote locations. We always recommend that you check with neighbours as there is quite often a happy reunion in the end.

The best course of action is for the snake to be captured and taken into captivity with a responsible keeper. Leaving the snake in a garden, or in the wild generally, can cause problems. Firstly, the snake itself will be at risk (many pet snakes won’t thrive in Britain). Secondly, the snake could pose a risk to our native wildlife. Thirdly, it may prompt concern from others who encounter it.

ARC focuses on helping British snakes and so unfortunately we cannot help you with escaped pet snakes. There may be a welfare issue, so the RSPCA www.rscpa.org.uk / 0300 1234 555 or Scottish SPCA www.scottishspca.org / 03000 999 999 may be able to help once identification is sought. We often receive referrals from the RSPCA in order to help with identification queries.  You may also find other local animal welfare charities can help through online searches.

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