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Escaped snake found in garden; Reptile not venomous but can give a nasty nip.

Byline: Echo Reporter

A SIX-FOOT-LONG constrictor snake has been found in the back garden of a Cardiff house.

An expert yesterday warned the snake, discovered in a back garden on Kings Road, Canton, could have been loose in the city suburb for days.

It is thought to be a rat snake, which is a type of constrictor that is not venomous - although Cardiff Reptile Centre's Anthony Antonio said it would be able to give a "nasty bite" if disturbed.

Police were tipped off about the slithery visitor when a man walked into Canton Police station yesterday morning and told clerk Rhian Clifford there was a snake in his back garden.

When PSCO Dan Wyatt went around to the house, he saw the snake - which is almost 6ft long - lying in the grass.

Dan, who has worked as a PCSO for almost six years and keeps reptiles himself, said it was the first time he had ever found a snake while on duty.

When he spotted the reptile, he identified it as a corn snake - a species of rat snake - and used his phone to check the markings on the internet.

He said: "From what I could tell, the markings were very similar to those of a corn snake, so I called up my colleague, PCSO Jake Lynch, and asked him to bring something to put it in.

"When he arrived, we covered the snake's head with a bit of clothing that was there already and I held the bag open while my colleague put the snake in, with no issues whatsoever."

He said the snake, which was in the process of shedding its skin - a time when they are usually more likely to bite - stayed completely still, possibly because it had been out in the cold and was sluggish.

Mr Antonio, who owns the Cardiff Reptile Centre on Cowbridge Road West in Ely, said he was amazed when the pair walked into his shop with the snake in a brown forensic bag.

He said: "When I got it out of the bag to examine it, I could see it was a member of the rat snake family, which are known to be a bit snappy.

"Its eyes were blue, which means it is about to shed its skin, and when they are at that stage, they are more likely to attack because they cannot see properly.

"It isn't venomous, but it can give quite a nasty bite, so it's really very lucky it wasn't found by a child and that no-one was hurt."

He said the snake, which was healthy, could have been in the area for up to three days.

After making some inquiries, Dan found the owner living nearby.

He added: "Needless to say, he was very happy that it had been found."

WHAT ARE RAT SNAKES? * The term rat snake actually refers to a number of different species, including corn snakes, black rat snakes and Baird's snakes.

Most grow to between 3ft and 8ft, depending on the species, and are classified as constrictors. * They are popular as pets because they are generally docile and easy to handle, although some species can get more agitated than others.

They are usually non-venomous but their bite can still hurt.

Pet rat snakes are usually fed thawed-out frozen mice.

CAPTION(S):

* Kings Road, Canton, where the snake was found * Slippery customer... the rat snake that was found in a back garden in Canton
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 16, 2012
Words:572
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