The sighting of what was believed to be a venomous snake on top of a rubbish bin turned out to be something much less deadly.
RSPCA officer Ron Crawford attended the scene in Shildon, County Durham, after a member of the public reported a snake on top of a wheelie bin on Wednesday 11 December.
However, a closer inspection revealed it to be a rubber toy.
Mr Crawford said: "The caller had managed to secure it in a plastic tub before calling us for help, describing it as a brown snake that had been abandoned.
"However, once I arrived at the scene I quickly realised this wasn't your usual snake abandonment – and the snake in question was in fact a toy!”
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He added: "Unfortunately, we are called out to a lot of snakes that have been abandoned, often by owners who have taken them on without realising how much of a commitment they are and without understanding the specialist care they need.
"The caller was lucky it was rubber and not real – cobras can be extremely dangerous.”
The RSPCA said members of the public should treat any unidentified animal with caution and not to try to handle it if its species is not clear.