Snake owners are being warned to keep a close eye on their pets as the hot weather prompts an increase in runaway reptiles.
The RSPCA says the prolonged sunshine and warm temperatures make the animals very active, with calls to its hotline about escapees currently at very high levels.
It is asking those with a snake to ensure they remain extra vigilant, check enclosures are secure, and if necessary locked when unattended, and that any pets permitted to roam more freely are being watched very closely.
RSPCA Scientific Officer, Evie Button, said: "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.”
An estimated 700,000 people keep snakes in the UK – jumping from 500,000 in the last 12 months.
In 2021 the highest number of calls about escaped snakes to the RSPCA’s hotline came during the summer months with 1,200 reports across June, July and August alone.
A spokesman added: “This is not surprising, as snakes become more active during hot weather. So we would urge all pet snake owners to be extra vigilant at this time of year, invest in an enclosure suitable for the particular species and make sure that the enclosure is kept secure - and locked if necessary - when unattended.”
Another reason why more snakes are prone to escaping in the summer months, says the charity, is a desire by owners to take them outside to bask in the sunshine and reap the benefits of the increase in natural light.
However, with that also likely to make them more alert, the RSPCA says owners must ensure they’re watching their animals closely.
Captive snakes are ‘completely dependent’ on their owners for the correct accommodation, heating, lighting and food and most exotic animals kept as pets are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild in Britain.
Non-native species, the RSPCA adds, can also pose a significant threat to native creatures and it remains illegal to release or allow to escape any animal that is not normally native to the UK.
There are three native snake species in the UK. Alongside a grass snake and smooth snake is the adder, which is our only venomous species.