There are calls for more to be done to protect the population of Britain's biggest wild snakes in north Wales.
Residents in Colwyn Bay are often used to seeing the constrictor snakes venturing out in late spring following a long winter in hibernation.
The recent hot spell appears to have made them more adventurous - which has exposed them to harm.
In the past week, Tom Buckley has seen three dead snakes. “All three were on the roads and were possibly hit by cars travelling down from the mountain zoo,” he said.“The more people know of their whereabouts, the better. From now on, I will always be on the look-out for them one in the roads. If I see one, I’ll try to move it – or just wait until it moves out the way.”
The Aesculapian Rat Snake first appeared in Conwy in the mid-1960s when Robert Jackson, founder of the Welsh Mountain Zoo, imported the reptiles from Italy.
In the early 1970s, it is thought some escaped: baby snakes found in the zoo grounds were initially thought to be grass snakes but were later confirmed as Aesculapians.
They then began breeding beyond the zoo with some conservationists welcoming their arrival as a "returning species" - as they were once native to Britain before the last Ice Age.
It is thought there are about 60-70 breeding adults in the area. The snakes, which can reach 6ft, are harmless to people and pets and can help control vermin.
Tom Major at Bangor university would like to see more protection offered to the snakes. “The population is stable but it’s very vulnerable, being so small,” he said. “Ongoing development in the area, for housing, will always be a threat, as will road deaths.
“Building road culverts would help. Evidence suggests that is once snakes, or any other wildlife, become aware of culverts, they will use them.“However these are not generally incorporated into transport policies in Britain and it’s unlikely they will be built in Colwyn Bay. Cost is one issue, the fact that these are a re-introduced species, is another.”
The snakes, which primarily feed on small mammals like wood mice and voles, are regular visitors to Lydia Mary Fernandez-Arias' garden, which is near the mountain zoo.
Bangor University’s snake-tracking team used to visit the garden twice a day. “They go out hunting in the summer and they like the long grass in my garden!” said Lydia.“I’ve not yet seen them this summer, although I’ve not been looking for them. Last I heard, some snakes had moved into the roof in a chapel in Mochdre.“It’s sad to think of them getting hit by cars. As far as I’m told, the snakes don’t impact the local environment and they once lived here thousands of years ago.”