The snakes are back in Ireland – and many of them have been left homeless on St Patrick’s Day of all days by the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.
Tradition has it that Ireland’s patron saint drove all the snakes from his adopted homeland but The New York Times reports that they’ve returned.
And many of them are now living in an animal sanctuary after their owners ran out of the money needed to keep them.
The paper reports that during the Celtic Tiger boom, snakes became a popular pet in Ireland among the nouveaux riche.
They were ‘status symbols in a country famous for its lack of indigenous serpents’ according to the report.
But now that the recession is biting owners are abandoning the snakes after failing to find a modern day St Patrick to solve their reptile problem.
The report says some owners were forced to emigrate and leave their snakes behind. Some let them loose in the countryside and others took more drastic action.
Last year, a California king snake was found late last year in a vacant store in Dublin, and a 15-foot python turned up in a garden in Mullingar.
The paper says a corn snake was found in a trash bin in South Dublin and an aggressive rat snake was kept in a shed in County Meath.
National Exotic Animal Sanctuary founder Kevin Cunningham, a 37-year-old animal lover now looking after many of the snakes after leaving his job in a Dublin nightclub, explained the dilemma.
Speaking from his animal sanctuary in the Meath town of Ballivor, he said: “The recession is the thing that’s absolutely causing this.
“It was about status. During the boom, people treated these animals as conversation starters.”
Reptile expert PJ Doyle added: “In the Tiger economy, young people could pay a thousand dollars for a snake and the necessary equipment, about $700 to $1,000 during much of the boom.
“But these days, some owners just drive up and throw them somewhere.”
The warmer weather around St Patrick’s Day, as spring approaches, leads to an upsurge in reptile abandonment according to expert Gillian Bird.
She stated: “We always get a bump in calls around Paddy’s Day.”
Sanctuary boss Cunningham believes Irish people have an inbred fear of snakes.
He added: “We have it deep inbred in us that they’re evil and nasty and tempted Eve and were led out of Ireland.
“One six-foot snake ended up with us recently after its owner lost his job and had to move in with his parents.
“Being a good Irish mother, she said, ‘Of course I’ll take you back home — but I’m not taking your boa constrictor.’”
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