SEWAGE workers in Basingstoke were given a freight when they were confronted by a slippery customer.

Staff from Thames Water were on site at the sewage plant in Chineham, when they spotted a snake laying on the path.

When workers saw the snake on November 7, they said it appeared cold, so decided to call the RSPCA.

Animal welfare officer at the RSPCA, Justine Hermon said: “When the call came through, we were expecting it to be a common species such as a grass snake or a pet corn snake.

“As an exotic animal specialist, my colleague Phil Hamilton attended the incident and when he arrived at the sewage plant, he saw straight away this was a more unusual type of snake.

“He took one look at the animal and spotted the ‘hood’ on its neck, identifying it to be a false water cobra, a snake which originally comes from South America and is reported to be mildly venomous.

“We have now taken the snake to a nearby specialist facility where it will be cared for it until its owner can be tracked down or it can be rehomed.

“Thankfully, it is in good condition and is eating well. We’re grateful to the Thames Water staff who found the snake and got in touch as this snake would not have fared well in the cold weather.”

RSPCA officers often deal with incidents concerning abandoned or escaped exotic animals.

The needs of exotic animals are the same as they would be in the wild and are often linked to behaviours, diets or environmental conditions that can be difficult to replicate at home.

Sewage works manager Kenny Masters added: "We see some weird and wonderful things thanks to some of the bizarre objects that end up in the sewers - but a metre-long cobra slithering across the footpath in front of us is definitely up there.

"It almost certainly wasn't flushed down a toilet as there's no way it would have survived - our machinery which filters out everything other than pee, poo and paper would have killed it. I can only fathom it was released or escaped."

Reptiles are ectothermic so they rely on their environment to maintain their body temperature.

Reptiles that are not native to this country need a heated environment with a specific temperature gradient for the species to regulate their body temperature, in order to stay healthy and allow them to carry out their normal behaviour.

If a reptile becomes too cold, they may be unable to feed or move normally and their immune system will not work properly to fight disease, meaning the animal can become very ill.

The RSPCA said it is possible the snake escaped from a property in the local area, in which case someone will be missing their beloved pet.

The owner, or anyone with information, can contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018