Six-foot rat-eating snakes found breeding in UK after possible escape from zoo

A breed of snake that can grow up to six feet long has been discovered in the UK after a 10,000-year hiatus – and experts believe it was because of an escape from a zoo in the 1970s .

The breed is called the Aesculapian ratsnake, and it gets that name because it eats rodents.

They were discovered in the Colwyn Bay area of ​​Wales and are thought to have originally come from Welsh Mountain Zoo.

In the mid-1960s animals were brought to the zoo from Italy, and in the early 1970s baby snakes were found in the park.

Initially thought to be grass snakes due to their yellow markings, but later confirmed to be Aesculapian snakes, Live reports from North Wales.

The snake is non-venomous and was once a ‘native’ species to Britain before the last Ice Age.

They are not harmful according to PhD student Tom Major, who recently found an Aesculapian snake: “We found a snake that was born around September 2018 and weighed eight grams in 2019.

“Three years later it weighed 15 grams, about the same as an HP pencil.

“Even taking into account six months of hibernation each year, and the cooler climate, it’s an extraordinarily slow growth rate. This suggests he may have only eaten once or twice in the past three years.

Tom has been studying snakes for five years now and says “they are used to living alongside humans and there is little to no evidence that they cause harm”.

They seem to be popping up all over the UK. A smaller population was found to live on rats along Regent’s Canal near London Zoo in 2010. Currently there are a few dozen in the wild in London.

Just two years ago, a third population was reported – but not confirmed – in Bridgend.

The Colwyn Bay colony is considered the largest in the UK: Tom thinks there could be around 70 adults and 120 juveniles.

Although they can grow up to six feet, Tom suspects they are unlikely to grow much beyond 1.5 meters due to the UK’s colder climate.

Despite this, they are still the longest snakes in Britain.

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Snakes do not avoid humans and have been found in gardens and shelters in other countries in the past.

They like to nest in stone walls, abandoned buildings and ruins, lay their eggs in garden compost heaps and revisit the same safe places to seek refuge.

The Colwyn Bay population has been monitored since 2004 so that “rapid response can be taken if necessary”, the North Wales Wildlife Trust said.

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