17 snakes escape in Lothians during summer

Scottish SPCA's Gemma Barbour with Barney the King Snake
Scottish SPCA's Gemma Barbour with Barney the King Snake
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NO fewer than 17 have slithered their way out of their homes in the space of just three summer months.

Now, snake owners are being urged to keep an eye on their sneaky pets following the high number of escapes across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Staff at the Scottish SPCA’s animal rescue and rehoming centre in Balerno took in five snakes in June, four in July and eight last month, all of which are suspected to have escaped from their homes.

The charity is urging owners to do all they can to ensure their snakes are kept secure.

Chief Inspector Fiona Henderson said: “We’re regularly called to rescue stray snakes but so many in such a short space of time is highly unusual.

“Snakes are excellent escape artists so it’s important owners ensure their vivariums are completely secure. If a vivarium doesn’t have a lock, we’d recommend having one fitted.

“Thankfully, the majority of people who find stray snakes know to contact us for help, even if they do get a bit of a fright initially.”

She added: “Snakes require knowledgeable owners and specialist equipment, so the decision to take one on shouldn’t be made lightly.

“While we would never encourage impulsive rehoming, we’re regularly seeking good owners for the snakes in our care and we’d ask anyone interested to contact us.”

Local animal rescue officer Connie O’Neill was called to rescue a black and white California king snake from a flat in Bathgate in July. She said: “The snake was initially spotted behind a washing machine but it then moved behind some kitchen units. The people in the flat were quite alarmed but it’s not every day you find a snake in your kitchen.

“Thankfully, I was able to reach the snake and take it to our Balerno centre for care.”

In another incident this summer, Inspector Sarah Gregory was contacted when a Wester Hailes resident spotted a three-foot-long king snake curled up next to his garden shed.

She said: “The man had seen the snake a couple of days earlier but thought it was a toy.

“It wasn’t until he tried to move it that he realised it was real and got a huge shock.

“The snake was very cold when I rescued it and wouldn’t have survived for much longer.

“Snakes need heat so I’m really glad we were called in to help before it was too late.”

In March, workers at the city’s Montague Bar discovered a three-foot-long corn snake lying motionless on the concrete floor of the basement, which they initially believed was a rubber toy. Scottish SPCA officers rescued it close to death, suggesting it could have been on the loose for some time.

The Balerno centre currently has 20 snakes in its care, most of which are strays. Anyone who discovers a snake should call the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.