A deadly boa constrictor is on the loose after a girl found the reptile’s 5ft shed skin.
Stunned seven-year-old Amelia Drewett made the discovery while out walking with her grandfather in a leafy residential suburb in Oxford.
Her grandmother has since appealed for the owner of the skin to come forward on Facebook – but the whereabouts of the snake is a mystery.
Amelia Drewett pictured with snake skin she found on a walk in Oxford with her grandfather
Boa constrictors, which are non-venomous, shed their skin between four and 12 times a year
Why do snakes shed their skin?
A snake’s process of shedding its skin is called ecdysis and it occurs between four and 12 times a year.
This is because, while the snake’s body continues to grow, its skin does not.
This means it must shed its old skin to make way for new, better-sized skin.
Snakes also shed their skin because it is an effective way of removing harmful parasites.
Just before a snake begins to shed its skin, the skin itself turns bluish and the snake’s eye become opaque – hindering vision.
Within a few days, the snake rubs its head on something abrasive – like a rock – to tear open the outer layer.
It then works to crawl out of the old skin over a period which can last anything from days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the size and condition of the snake.
Boa constrictors are non-venomous but have been known to kill large animals by squeezing them to death.
The section of skin was found by a busy road and measures around 5ft but is incomplete – meaning the snake could be several feet longer in total.
It is now hanging up in her grandparents’ house in Headington, about 100m from where it discovered.
Debra Drewett, 65, said: ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when they brought it home. It goes from almost floor to ceiling.
‘They thought it was just plastic in the brambles under the bridge, but they took a closer look and it was this huge snake skin.
‘Nobody’s come up with any sort of reasonable explanation for how it got there.’
‘I was really worried and had the image of a huge snake slithering around someone’s garden.’
Debra emailed the RSPCA after the discovery and spoke to Evolution Reptiles in nearby Kidlington, who told them it was a boa constrictor.
The shop does not sell that type of snake because they grow too big and assistant Nicole Head believes it was dumped deliberately.
She said: ‘I can imagine somebody’s probably let it go, as a large snake is pretty hard to lose.
‘It’s not the first time we’ve heard or seen this happen, but we’re keeping our eye out to see if anyone’s lost it.
‘If it’s scared it’s going to be worried, but we can’t imagine it’ll cause harm.’
Snake skin measures about 5ft – taller than Amelia – but is incomplete so snake could be longer
This view was echoed by Colin Stevenson, head of education at Crocodiles of the World zoo in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
He revealed the boa would be feasting on rodents and small birds and the climate meant it was unlikely to survive until Christmas.
Mr Stevenson said: ‘It’s not going to eat your cat. You wouldn’t want it to bite you, but it would only give you a nasty wound.
‘Most of these reptiles aren’t going to do too well in the wild in England.
‘It’s certainly too cold for them to thrive, unless they can find somewhere warm or protected.’
A licence to keep a boa constrictor is not needed because they are not venomous, so not deemed a dangerous wild animal.
The RSPCA did not respond to a request for comment.