Three snakes have escaped in a sleepy Sussex village – with one still on the loose.
The latest serpent, a 4ft-long royal python, was seen curled up under a bush on Sunday – a week after another python was recovered from a field.
A third three and a half foot snake was also reported to the RSPCA on Thursday after being spotted, but when they arrived they could not find it.
The reptiles, which are understood not to be poisonous, were all found in West Ashling, a small village near Chichester.
It is not known if the incidents are related, however the charity is concerned that a number of large snakes have been found in such a short space of time.
RSPCA animal rescue officer Claire Thomas, who was called to assist with the snake on Sunday said: “It’s not very often that we get called out to incidents involving large stray snakes so it may be that these incidents are related, though we cannot be sure at this stage.
“We don’t want to cause panic to anyone as royal pythons are not venomous snakes.
“It concerns us that these snakes have been outdoors just as the weather is getting cooler, as snakes need to be kept warm.”
Evie Button, the animal welfare charity’s senior scientific advisor, added: “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.
“Last year, we took more than one thousand reports about snakes, with the highest number of calls coming in during the summer months.
“This is not surprising, as snakes become more active during hot weather.
“The RSPCA urges all pet snake owners to be extra vigilant, invest in an enclosure suitable for the particular species and make sure that enclosure is kept secure – and locked if necessary – when unattended.”
Many of the snakes the RSPCA’s officers are called to collect are thought to be abandoned pets.
Evie added: “Sadly, we also have to deal with a lot of abandoned snakes.
“We find that many people are unaware of how much of a commitment these animals are when they take them on, which we believe contributes to the hundreds of animals every year who have sadly been abandoned when their owners can no longer meet their needs.”
Snakes are completely dependent on their owners for the correct accommodation, heating, lighting and feed, all of which must replicate their wild habitat as closely as possible to keep them healthy.
Without proper care they can suffer from serious diseases, dehydration, injuries, parasites, and in severe cases or if left untreated, they can eventually die.