THEY are the last thing you would expect to have to avoid on the streets of Edinburgh.
• The stray corn snakes are harmless
But no fewer than three stray snakes have been found on the loose in the city in the space of a week after escaping from their owners' homes.
The harmless pet corn snakes are thought to have sneaked out of three separate properties in the Capital and are now being cared for at the Scottish SPCA's Edinburgh and Lothians Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre.
Assistant manager at the centre, Kenny Sharpe, said: "Corn snakes make popular pets as they are small and typically quite docile and easy to handle.
"However, they are fantastic escape artists who can easily get out of a vivarium if the lid is not properly closed or weighed down.
"It's quite common for us to rescue corn snakes from all sorts of situations, often bathrooms in blocks of flats. We think they may use the drain pipes to move from one property to another."
He added: "These snakes are all in good condition and would make good pets for someone who has the appropriate experience and accommodation to be able to care for them.
"If anyone has recently lost a corn snake then we'd invite them to get in touch."
Two of the exotic creatures were found by members of the public in the city centre, with the first being discovered in Commercial Street in Leith on August 21 at around 10.40pm, and the other found outside the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop in Princes Street in the early hours of the following morning. Both snakes were handed in at local police stations and later transferred to the animal welfare charity's Balerno-based centre.
The third corn snake - an albino hatchling - was discovered in a garden on Gilmerton Road on August 26.
All three of the adventurous snakes, which are around 1-2 feet long, were collected by Scottish SPCA ambulance driver Mairi Stewart and are now securely housed in vivariums at the centre's specialist exotics room.
Miss Stewart said: "The snakes were found in different areas so we definitely think they belonged to different owners - it was just a bit of a coincidence that they were found within a few days of each other.
"The snake found on Princes Street was handed to police at around 2am, so somebody must have been a bit surprised coming back from a night out to find a snake. The snake found in Leith was crossing the road, which would have been a strange sight."
Miss Stewart said around ten snakes had been found slithering their way around Edinburgh and the Lothians since the start of the year.
She added: "If somebody does lose their snake, they think it is gone and never coming back. It's not very often that we reunite them with their owners because they don't think to phone us, which is quite sad."
Staff at the centre are keen to reunite the snakes with their owners or find them new homes.
Anyone interested in reclaiming or rehoming a snake should call the charity's animal helpline on 03000 999 999.