But yesterday the “reptile” at the centre of the emergency was revealed to have been nothing more dangerous than a decorative draft excluder.
Karen Hogg, an animal rescue officer with the Scottish SSPCA, told how she got the call about the “snake in the loft” at the charity’s Aberdeen base earlier this week.
A “very distressed woman” made a frantic call for help to the SSPCA after reporting a serpent in the attic of her newly rented home in the Kingswells area of Aberdeen.
Ms Hogg explained: “The lady, who is in her late 20s or early 30s and doesn’t’ speak much English, had only been in the property a couple of weeks and had decided to put some boxes into the attic. When she went up into the loft this ‘snake’ just kind of caught her eye and she panicked and closed the loft up.”
She said that when the SSPCA rescue team arrived at the house the woman bolted from the property. Said Ms Hogg: “The lady ran out of the house screaming and carrying her baby and almost tripped and fell.
“We’ve rescued hundreds of snakes from properties in all sorts of unusual circumstances, so we had no reason to believe this might not be the real thing.
“I’d brought gloves and a pillow case to enable us to handle and contain the snake safely, but as soon as we spotted it we realised the equipment wouldn’t be necessary. It was a large green and black snake-shaped draught excluder with a red felt tongue.”
Ms Hogg continued: “Even when I carried out the draft excluder and told they woman it wasn’t a snake she was still very shaken. I had to hide it in my jacket and get it into my van before she would go back into her house.
“But no shame to her. It was folded in a box and you could just see the body part which was fat and quite snake- like. It did look a bit like some kind of big python-type constrictor snake. She did the right thing, although she is dead embarrassed now.”
She added: “This call-out really made us smile and, given that we deal with cruelty and neglect day-in-day-out, it was refreshing to go to a job where the ‘animal’ was completely unharmed.”
The draft excluder - now nicknamed “Sid” - has been put on permanent display at the SSPCA’s animal rescue and rehoming centre at Drumoak.
Said Ms Hogg: “This must be the most unusual call out I’ve ever had. But I do remember a few years back I went to rescue an injured crow only to discover was a black bag flapping in the wind.”