A charity has raised concerns over "a lot of abandoned snakes" in the UK following an incident in which three "freezing" snakes were found in a box.

The RSPCA has since launched an investigation and believes this is not an isolated incident.

Evie Button, the animal welfare charity’s Senior Scientific Advisor, said: "Sadly, we have to deal with a lot of abandoned snakes. 

"We find that many people are unaware of how much of a commitment these animals are when they take them on, which we believe contributes to the hundreds of animals every year who have sadly been abandoned when their owners can no longer meet their needs.

"Exotic pets such as snakes often end up in the RSPCA’s care after people realise they're not easy to care for, or the novelty wears off. Others are rescued after they have been abandoned or been released on purpose, which then could pose a risk to our native wildlife.

"The needs of reptiles can be challenging to meet because they are just the same as they would be in the wild and are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions that can be difficult to replicate in a domestic environment.

"Snakes that are not native to this country need a heated environment with a specific temperature gradient for the species to regulate their body temperature. 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 so it was lucky these snakes were found."

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The concerns were raised after three snakes were found abandoned in a box in freezing conditions after being left in a Derbyshire field.

The three corn snakes, who were all underweight, were found by a member of the public at an entrance to a field off Haddon Street in North Wingfield on Wednesday, January 31 at 7.30 am.

They'd been abandoned together in a small plastic box, containing just newspaper, which had been taped up and left in freezing temperatures.

RSPCA Inspector Rachel Leafe, who rescued the abandoned pets, is now investigating and is appealing for help in finding the person responsible.

She said: "It was very lucky these harmless corn snakes were found as it was very cold - with frost on the ground - and they need to live in a heated environment to survive.

"They were all underweight and sadly I suspect they were pets that someone decided they no longer wanted to care for so they simply taped them up in a plastic box and callously dumped them like rubbish. 

"I'm grateful to the person who found them and alerted us to the incident. The snakes are now being temporarily boarded with Reptilia, a specialist centre in Ossett, West Yorkshire, where they will be rehabilitated before long-term homes can be found for them.

"If anyone knows who's responsible for leaving these snakes in such a dire situation then they can call the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018."

What to do if you find a snake in the UK

If anyone finds a snake they believe is non-native the RSPCA’s advice is to keep a safe distance, monitor the snake and call the charity’s helpline on 0300 1234 999 or a local reptile charity.