UK
14/05/2014 07:42 BST | Updated 14/05/2014 07:59 BST

Aesculapian Snakes Do Live In London's Camden Lock, But They Aren't Going To Murder Your Children & Pets

Killer exotic snakes are NOT rampaging through London hoping to eat your children.

We repeat: There is nothing to fear.

We can confirm a colony of non-venomous Aesculapian snakes does live in the Camden Lock area of north London, but contrary to media reports they are not capable of crushing small children or murdering your pets.

aesculapian snake

Aesculapian snakes are non-venomous and are capable of reaching 6ft in length

Last week The Daily Star cited “experts” warning the snakes – which can reach up to 6ft in length - could “take out a small dog the same size as a young child”, before quoting mother-of-three Sylvia Taylor exclaiming: “If they are capable of killing small animals then surely they could constrict small children?”

Huffington Post UK spoke to Dr Wolfgang Wuster, a snake venom expert and senior lecturer of the School of Biological Science in Bangor University.

He told us: “As far as I am concerned this has been atrocious, sensationalist media reporting.

Not an Aesculapian snake... but found in the same area nontheless

“The snakes are perfectly harmless to pets and to humans.

“If your child is the size of a small rat they could constitute a danger, but if that’s the case I’d suggest it being constricted by a snake would be the least of your worries.”

The snakes have reportedly been spotted up trees, on rooftops and climbing drains in North London over the past weeks.

They are believed originate from central Europe but their ancestors may have escaped from nearby London Zoo several years ago.

There were even hints a cull of the colony – thought to number 30 – was in the works, sparked by the London Invasive Species Initiative (LISI)’s listing of them as: “Species of high impact or concern present at specific sites that require attention (control, management, eradication, etc.)”

But LISI spokesman Karen Harper told HuffPost UK: “We need further research. There are no plans for a cull – I’m entirely sure how the word cull even came up.”

A news statement on the website reads: "The species of concern list for the Greater London area has been compiled by a range of industry professionals and land managers within London and is reviewed and updated quarterly.

"This list does indeed include the Aesculapian snakes that are being referred to, although no action that I am aware of has been taken to remove this population, nor does LISI have any plans to do so at present.

"This species is listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning it is illegal to allow the species to spread or escape into the wild. At present there is limited information on what effects the species may have on our local ecosystems and further information would be hugely valuable in developing appropriate management plans for this population."

Aesculapian snakes are among the largest snakes in Europe and juveniles can easily be confused with grass snakes. A colony of the snakes has lived peacefully in North Wales for decades after escaping from the Welsh Mountain Zoo.