By STUART WINTER, ExpressPUBLISHED: 13:24, Tue, Jan 15, 2019 | UPDATED: 19:28, Tue, Jan 15, 2019A passer-by discovered the 13ft (4m) heavily-marked snake languishing in a plastic storage box by the side of the A303 lay-by near Marston Magna, in the countryside of Somerset. Having alerted the RSPCA to collect the creature, the good Samaritan will be shocked to know about the deadly threats posed by reticulated pythons, officially recognized as the world’s biggest snakes. Although the pythons are not venomous, they can exert tremendous pressures as they coil their muscular bodies around prey and squeeze the life out of them by constrictionReticulated pythons are said to struggle opening their jaws wide enough to swallow an adult human, but there have been a number of recent deadly attacks where people were eaten whole.A 25-year-old farmer was found inside the body of a 23-foot python in March 2017, after vanishing from his palm tree plantation in West Sulawesi, Indonesia. When the snake was later found with a bulging body, it was killed and the farmer’s body recovered. Last June, a 54-year-old woman was also killed and swallowed by another 23-foot python in southeast Sulawesi. Again, the snake was found with a bulging body before being killed and cut open to recover the victim. While the python found in the layby off the A303 at Marston Magna in Somerset was little more than half the size of the man-eating pythons in Indonesia, there are fears it may have been abandoned after growing to such huge proportions, measuring longer than a giraffe.
RSPCA Animal collection officer Clara Scully retrieved the snake from the well-wisher so that it could receive expert care. She explained: “This snake is in lovely condition so has obviously been a well-cared for pet. However, the snake was found dumped out in the cold and was suffering due to the low temperatures. “We rushed the snake to a temporary boarder for overnight care and it has now been taken in by one of our exotics officers who will offer a permanent home if no one comes forward to claim ownership.”The RSPCA is warning that deliberately abandoning reptiles is cruel and illegal. Cold-blooded, or ectothermic, snakes have to rely on their environment to maintain critical body temperature. Non-native reptiles need heated spaces to allow them to function and if they become too cold they are unable to feed while their immune systems can also become impaired. Well looked after snakes like reticulated pythons can flourish in captivity, producing potential problems for owners.RSPCA senior scientific officer in exotics and wildlife trade, Stephanie Jayson, explained: “Reticulated pythons have been recorded to grow up to 30 ft in captivity. Therefore, it is difficult to provide these snakes with enough space in a home environment. “Owners may not realize how large these animals will grow when they first take them on and, sadly, large snakes may be abandoned when their owners realize they cannot provide enough space to care for them properly.“In 2018, the number of abandoned reptiles collected by RSPCA officers was 298. Abandoning a reptile or releasing unwanted exotic pets into the wild is cruel and illegal. “Most exotic animals kept as pets are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild in Britain and non-native species could pose a serious threat to our native wildlife.”It is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to release, or to allow to escape, any species that are not normally native to the UK.” The danger of releasing large snakes into non-native habitat has created a major environmental disaster in Florida’s Everglades where Burmese pythons have devastated native wildlife since the late 1980s.Once freed by exotic pet owners who found them too difficult to keep, the pythons flourished in the subtropical conditions, breeding in large numbers and finding the prevalence of native American wildlife, such as raccoons, opossums, and even bobcats, perfect food. To date, more than 1,850 have been eliminated, with hunters earning $8.25 an hour and $50 dollar bounties for each one over four foot.Anyone who recognizes the reticulated python found in Somerset or thinks they may know more about where it came from should contact the RSPCA’s appeal line on 0300 123 8018.