A python measuring more than a metre long was spotted by a cyclist on a residential street in Toulouse earlier this month, the regional fire service has confirmed.
The Haute-Garonne fire brigade was contacted around 1:30 on Sunday (November 12) by a cyclist who claimed to have encountered a snake on a street in the Minimes district, not far from the ring road.
“Our operational room dispatched the emergency services to the site,” Commander Marion Guérive-Condomines, head of the Colomiers rescue centre (Haute-Garonne) told The Connexion.
On arrival the emergency services found a python which appeared to have been abandoned.
“The python was captured using reptile hooks and transported to the National Veterinary School of Toulouse to be examined and try to find its owner,” she added.
Second python in the area
This is the second time in the past few months that a python has been found in Toulouse.
In early October, a resident of the Saint-Michel district discovered a 1.5-metre snake in his toilet in the middle of the night.
"When you go to pee, you do not expect to come across a python," said 53-year-old Patrick.
The snake, believed to belong to one of his neighbours, is thought to have entered his apartment through an open window. It was also captured by specialised firefighters.
"More and more city dwellers are keeping these pets in vivariums. Sometimes they escape, so two or three times a year we have to capture them," the Haute-Garonne fire brigade said at the time.
Leave it to the professionals
Due to their size and strength, the handling of snakes should be left to experienced people.
Pythons are not generally dangerous to humans as they are not venomous, however they do still pose risks such as infection from bites or spread of disease.
The last publicised death from a snake bite in France was around 10 years ago when an enthusiast demonstrating handling snakes to members of the public, was bitten by a viper and suffered a heart attack.
In the case of a chance encounter with a python or any other type of snake, the fire brigade recommends not trying to catch it but to call them for help.
“If it is a native snake, it must be released outside the house in a nearby field or forest,” said Mrs Guérive-Condomines.
“If the person is afraid or in doubt about the identification of the species, they are advised to keep calm, trap the animal in a room (for example by closing the door) and call for help from professionals who will intervene and deal with catching it.”
Illegal to kill snakes in France
Although a first reaction to seeing a snake might be to kill it, this is actually illegal in France and those who do so risk up to two years in prison and a €150,000 fine.
This is due in part to the importance of snakes to the ecosystem in France.
Farmers, for example, welcome their presence as they can lower the number of rodents and so limit the damage that these can do to crops or vegetables.
The most common snakes in France are couleuvres (grass snakes) which are not poisonous to humans, although they do have a venom which kills mice and small creatures.
As the snake population decreases, the public are encouraged to build a snake hotel in your garden and help build numbers back up.