Staff at a Blackpool sweet factory were left shocked when they discovered a snake hiding in an out building – thousands of miles from its normal habitat.
Workers at confectionary company R D Blackwood, in Cowley Road, Marton, were left stunned when they found a 4ft snake in the boiler room.
The reptile, believed to be a corn snake, is native to North America, but is popular with pet owners in the UK.
Marcus Buckingham, 26, found the snake on his cigarette break.
He said the business had been making toffee and chocolate apples ahead of Bonfire Night next month and had imported the fruit from Spain and Chile.
He added: “First thing in the morning we heard something. I went back in and could see the edge of the tale under the boiler. When I dug it out I could tell it was a snake.
“I just could not believe it.
“I was shocked and jumped a little. We’ve had a lot of apples from abroad and thought it might have been a stowaway.”
Factory owner Bob Blackwood, 62, added: “One of the lads went out for a cigarette.
“He came back in and said he thought he could hear a hissing. He went again and heard a noise, then we all came out and saw the snake sneak under the boiler.
“We have been here since 1972 and never had anything like it.
“A few people who come out for a cigarette are avoiding the place now – I think a few are a little scared!”
The corn snake usually lives around six to eight years, but in captivity can live to be up to 25.
Though resembling a venomous Copperhead and often killed as a result of this mistaken identity, corn snakes are harmless and actually considered to be beneficial to humans.
They lack venom and help control populations of wild rodent pests that damage crops and spread disease.
Simon Tottoh, of Chameleoco in Kirkham, which sells reptiles, said the snake had probably escaped from a pet owner.
He added: “Although I cannot see the head of the snake, it looks like a snow corn snake.
“They are quite common in the UK, but the species is normally found in North America.
“I would not say it is a threat and has more than likely escaped from its owner.”
Mr Blackwood said he called the RSPCA whichtold him it would come to visit the factory and remove the snake promptly.