Couple's shock as snake drops from tree

AN AMOROUS couple are recovering from the shock of their lives today after a four foot snake narrowly missed them when it dropped from a park tree.No one knows what the reptile - thought to be a grey rat snake native to south eastern America - was doing in Christchurch Park in Ipswich but its discovery has left rangers stunned.

AN AMOROUS couple are recovering from the shock of their lives today after a four foot snake narrowly missed them when it dropped from a park tree.

No one knows what the reptile - thought to be a grey rat snake native to south eastern America - was doing in Christchurch Park in Ipswich but its discovery has left rangers stunned.

The couple, who park workers said had been sharing an intimate moment in the park's arboretum, were disturbed when the agile tree climber fell to the ground just yards from them.

Unsure of whether the constrictor was dangerous, the terrified pair raised the alarm but the search for the scaly rodent-hunter had to be called off as darkness fell on Saturday.


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When rangers returned to the spot on Sunday they found the snake nearby and immediately removed it from the park.

Today a search has been launched for its owner as rangers try to find out if it escaped from its home or was dumped there.

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Sam Pollard, Ipswich Borough Council's parks manager, said: “It's a complete shock. I know we have slow worms in the park and they look a bit like snakes but we've never had anything like this.

“A young couple had been sitting in the arboretum and this snake dropped out of the trees behind them and on to the ground. It kind of put paid to their amorous ways.”

Grey rat snakes are common in parts of Florida and have spread to other areas of south eastern America.

The Christchurch Park snake, which measures four-and-a-half feet, fell from a holm oak tree, also known as a holly oak, near to a bridleway which runs alongside the arboretum.

Mr Pollard said: “It's quite possible someone has disposed of the snake from the bridleway into the park.”

The snake is being cared for by Mark Smith, a borough council arborist who has also kept snakes and other reptiles in the past.

Mr Smith, 39, said the snake had initially been sluggish because conditions were much cooler than it was suited to.

He said: “When they found him he wasn't moving at all.

“If it was warm enough it could probably feed in the park. If it had been 25 or 30 degrees it would have been very active.

“I don't think it's been there very long but it's hard to tell. It's got a few marks and scrapes and it's lost a few scales but it does seem to be quite happy.”

Do you know who the owner could be? Were you and your partner the couple disturbed by the snake? Call The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk .

n. Are you an exotic pet owner? Send us your pictures of your pets to Starnews@eveningstar.co.uk or Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

Did you know?

As well as this week's reptilian discovery, Christchurch Park has had other bizarre discoveries in the past. In September 1995 a penguin which had been taken from Banham Zoo was found swimming in the Wilderness Pond.

Rat snakes:

generally grow to about six feet long but the record for a rat snake is about seven feet

they eat small mammals, frogs, birds, lizards and eggs

lay their eggs in rotting vegetation or hollow logs

can live to between 15 and 20 years in the wild

in their native America they live in marshland, farmland, swamps and pinelands and even residential areas

they prefer sandy soil and scrub

constrictors use their body to squeeze their prey until it is dead and then swallow it whole

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