BRITAIN'S biggest snake that grows up to six foot long is breeding rapidly in the wild after it escaped from a zoo.
The Aesculapian Rat Snake are known to feed on rodents and have been monitored since 2004.
There are believed to be 70 adults and 120 kids in the largest colony in Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire.
Sightings have also previously been recorded in London, where there are thought to be a few dozen.
Experts believe the reptiles travelled over with a group of imported animals from Italy in the 1970s.
They say the non-venomous snakes, which were native to Britain 10,000 years ago before the Ice Age, escaped a zoo and began multiplying.
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It was thought they were grass snakes when they were first found but later identified as the Aesculapian Rat Snake.
Bangor University PhD student Tom Major said they are reluctant to cross over roads, which often limits their range to moving around 500metres a day, and they struggle to find prey.
He told North Wales Live:“We found a snake yesterday that was born around September 2018 and that weighed eight grams in 2019.”
“Three years later, it weighed 15 grams – about the same as an HP pencil.
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“Even allowing for six months of hibernation each year, and the cooler climate, it’s an extraordinarily slow growth rate.
"It suggests it might have eaten just once or twice in the past three years.”
Some conservations have welcomed their discovery as a "returning species".
A group were found to be living on rats along Regent's Canal, North London.
Aesculapian Rat Snake facts
Aesculapian Rat Snakes can live up to 30 years and grow up to six ft.
The carnivores mainly eat rodents as big as rats, and other smaller mammals like shrews and moles.
Birds, bird eggs and nestlings can also sometimes be on the menu while kids eat lizards, arthropods and small rodents.
They are dark, long, slender, and typically bronzy in color, with smooth scales that give it a metallic sheen.
They are generally good climbers and can get up to 20metres in trees.
And while they usually stay in their home ranges, males will travel up to 2km during mating season to find a female.
They are mainly native to Europe and Asia.
And another was reportedly seen in Bridgend.
Management Priority Species for Wales has been monitoring them in Colwyn Bay to ensure “rapid response can be taken if necessary”.
But Tom insisted there is little to no evidence of them causing harm to humans, who they have lived alongside for years in Europe.
He added: “On the Continent the snake co-exists with all other species, including animals you find here such as badgers, stoats and domestic cats.
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“For a naturally balanced ecosystem, diversity is usually a good thing.
"It is used to living alongside humans and there is little or no evidence of it causing any harm.”
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