The owners of conservatories are used to dealing with the odd creature that creeps in – wasps, bees, moths. But Rob Byrne had a much bigger beast to tackle when an 11ft-long (3-metre) reticulated python slithered in through the window of his sunroom in a Hampshire village and gave him a nip.
Byrne said he had been locking up his conservatory doors when he noticed a movement at a set of blinds. “It tried to bite me and coil around me. It nicked my arm and drew blood,” he said. “My wife and granddaughter came into the conservatory, saw it, and screamed.”
Byrne, 61, a retired gas industry worker, added: “Luckily flight or fight kicked in and I managed to fight it off, whereupon it retreated and coiled itself from the windows and dropped slowly down into the garden.”
The emergency services were called to the village of Bishopstoke and the python was captured.
Byrne said: “Adrenalin on the day made the whole experience exciting and funny but in the cold light of day I’m disturbed that had it been my two-year-old granddaughter that lives with us, instead of me, she would now be dead.
“I know there are reptile enthusiasts out there that are perfectly responsible and no problem to their neighbours or the wider public but there must be some people that are totally irresponsible for snakes to be on the loose. I did not expect to be attacked by a giant python in my own home.”
Byrne has written to the UK government asking for more controls to be placed on the ownership of pythons. “Something much worse could have happened,” he said.
The snake is being looked after at the National Centre for Reptile Welfare (NCRW) in Tonbridge, Kent.
The director of the NCRW, Chris Newman, said it was very unusual for a reticulated python, which are native to south and south-east Asia, to have escaped and be at large in the UK.
He said: “A reticulated python escaping is my nightmare. They are large and could be harmful to a child. We deal with lots of snakes that have escaped but very rarely reticulated pythons.”
Newman said the python could not have got hold of Byrne properly. “They have more than 100 teeth. You would know about it if you were properly bitten.”
He said it was “not unreasonable” that the snake had tried to defend itself and said it would have been active – because it was a male reticulated python and would have been looking for a female.
Newman said it was possible the snake had escaped when its owner was distracted or someone could have deliberately released it.
“It’s a lovely snake – very placid. I’d like to get the snake back to its owner and understand what happened.” If nobody comes forward the reptile will be rehomed.
About 3 million snakes are believed to be kept as pets in the UK.
The NCRW says that this summer, roughly one in four calls about snakes spotted in the wild turned out to be exotic reptiles. In June, it received six calls that turned out to be about native grass snakes.
Of the 536 exotic snakes it has taken in this year, 30 were found in the wild. The vast majority it deals with are much smaller snakes such as corn snakes. So far this year it has reunited snakes with owners in 17% of cases.