A REPTILE ecologist has urged people to be aware of the long-term implications of taking on an exotic animal after a snake was found dumped in a remote area near Ledbury.

Julie Lascelles discovered the python, which was around 4ft long, in a hedge in a country lane. It had sadly already died.

Writing on the Voice of Ledbury, she said: "I found this dead snake in the hedge and it's thought to be a python. Can anyone shed any light on it? It looks like it's been dumped, either dead or alive."

Nigel Hand, who is also from Ledbury and runs Central Ecology, was able to identify the snake as a royal python. These snakes originate from tropical climates and require specific conditions within a heated vivarium.

He said: "At this time of year we are getting frosts and it can get to minus temperatures. Any exotic animal like that isn't going to be used to it and will just shut down on the surface and the cold will kill it.

"If you have gone out and dumped it it's irresponsible and cruel because you know it is going to die.

"Dumping an animal in the winter means it's doomed to die or be eaten by another animal."

Mr Hand said there had been a spate of similar incidents across the country – and said people should be aware that such reptiles need long-term care.

"This is not just an issue in Ledbury but across the whole UK recently. I have been notified of a number of incidents this year including releasing exotic snakes such as boa species onto sensitive native reptile locations," he said.

He added that reptiles and snakes have been seen as 'trendy' pets in the last 20 years and breeders have attempted to find ways to introduce different colours and patterns.

"It makes them more desirable and the price can go up," he said. "But then the market can drop and people just don't know what to do with them."