Heather Large: Alarming close encounters of a very serpentine variety

From the world's biggest Burmese python living in a house in Tewkesbury to a false cobra slithering around a sewage works - snakes have been hitting the headlines for all sorts of reasons recently.

Close encounters of a very serpentine variety
Close encounters of a very serpentine variety

The sight of the 18ft pet python at a family home in Tewkesbury was already quite an alarming one but then I read that the creature is still growing - yikes!

It took three people to hold up its gigantic frame for the photograph- and even then they could have done with an extra pair of hands.

Meanwhile an engineer at a sewage works in Hampshire could have had a fright when he unwittingly picked up a dangerous snake by his hands - not realising it was a venomous false cobra.

It's believed the reptile had either been released or had escaped - and had not been flushed down the toilet.

The fearless worker was apparently not a bit concerned by the unusual visitor and handled it without a care in the world, even though it could have given him a rather nasty bite.

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the snakes but the reptiles do intrigue me - as long as they are a safe distance away.

But a few years ago I had a very close encounter with a grass snake that needed rescuing after getting tangled up in some wire mesh in my parents' garden.

It started with a phone call from my dad. "I need your help with something but don't tell your mum." I knew something was up but at that point the possibility that it was snake-related didn't even cross my mind. But she is very much afraid of them so I suppose the hint was there.

When I arrived I found my dad in the vegetable garden standing next to the compost bin where the unlucky snake had got itself stuck.

After getting advice from an animal rescue charity, we knew we had to cut it free from the net but that was easily said than done.

The best scissors for the job were my mum's hairdressing scissors - a task that they would never be used for again.

My dad nominated me to be in the danger zone by deciding that he would keep the harmless snake still so I could swiftly cut through the net

But as I began we were suddenly overwhelmed by a very pungent smell.

It turns out grass snakes excrete a foul-smelling substance from their anal gland - lovely.

Finally, I managed to get it free and and it slithered off, not the slightest bit grateful for being rescued or for its newly-found freedom.

I never thought I would ever be that close to a snake, let alone have my hand by its mouth, but the main thing was that it was unharmed by its ordeal.

And my parents made sure there were no other low-lying garden nets.

Thankfully since then there have been no other snake encounters but I do quite like reading about them - along as they live a good few counties away.

With Hexxie the world's biggest python, I have admiration for the trust the family puts in a creature that could not only squeeze a human to death within minutes, but swallow them whole, if it suddenly chose to.

But they insist their favourite animals are very much misunderstood although, as you would expect, they do have to be treated with respect.

Although when they bought her from a pet shop the constrictor was only eight inches long so they probably never imagined how much snake they would one day be sharing their home with.

But as long as she's cared for properly and has a good life, that's all that matters. Just don't expect me to be getting a pet snake any time soon. I'm happy to rescue any that need my help but living with one is a completely different matter - I'll stick to cats.

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