PET shop owners were left stunned after a boy brought in a 6ft killer snake in a pillowcase.
The African rock python, capable of eating a child, was discovered in a Tyneside alleyway where youngsters were poking it with sticks.
Reptile shop owner Steve Brooks, of Dragons Den in Heaton, Newcastle, said it was the first time he’d seen one of the creatures in the flesh.
“We do get a few corn snakes brought in, often by parents whose children have gone to university and they can’t care for them anymore, but we’ve not had anything like this,” he said.
“A lad of about 12 came in and said he’d found it in Walker. As soon as we opened the bag it was trying to bite us.
“We’ve put it in a tank in a store room and when you go in you often hear a thump behind you as it tries to bite at you through the glass.
“To be honest we’re surprised it hasn’t smashed through, it hits it so hard. It’s not something I’d want to sell. Somewhere like a zoo should have it.”
So far nobody has come forward to claim the snake, nicknamed Claus after an evil bloodsucker in TV show The Vampire Diaries.
African rock pythons are one of the largest species of snake, potentially growing to more than 20ft in length.
They live near water in the grasslands of sub-Saharan countries such as Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Young pythons primarily eat small rodents, but adults are capable of taking down very large prey, including young crocodiles, gazelles, warthogs.
Attacks on humans are uncommon, but only nine years ago a 10-year-old was eaten by a rock python in South Africa.
Gary Powell, senior reserves manager at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation said it could quite easily be a pet whose owner no longer wanted it.
“Rock pythons don’t have a particularly nice temperament, so as potential pets go they’re not brilliant,” he said. “It’s definitely not one to hang round your neck as even though they aren’t venomous, they still have quite a few teeth.
“Rock pythons have definitely eaten humans and I’ve seen footage of them eating antelope and crocodiles. I wouldn’t want one near my children.”