Facebook posts claiming that a venomous snake has been found inside a toilet in various locations across the UK are false.
The posts are appearing on community buy/sell groups and use identical wording throughout, except for the location which changes to match that of the group where it appears.
One post, in a group for residents of Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire, says: “My wife and I encountered a large western diamondback in our toilet in #Risborough. We are lucky to be alive. Please be watchful of your surroundings, toilets, openings in pipes, doorways potted plants etc. Stay safe everyone. SPREAD THE WORD AND SAVE A LIFE!!”
The post features two photographs of a toilet, one with a partly broken rim exposing the body of a snake, and a second in which more of the toilet bowl has been smashed up, revealing more of the animal’s body.
Full Fact has not been able to find the original source of the images. But a spokesperson from US-based snake removal firm Big Country Snake Removal told Full Fact the animal pictured inside the toilet rim was not a Western diamondback rattlesnake, but rather a non-venomous rainbow boa. It’s also been described as a rainbow boa on a snake identification forum, which has highlighted more examples of the posts.
Some of the posts also include an image of a man’s badly swollen finger, even though the post does not mention anyone being bitten by the snake. A reverse search of the image shows it was taken from a 2019 report about a man in Franklin, Tennessee, in the US, who was bitten by a rattlesnake while working in the woods.
All of the posts have the comments turned off and have been uploaded by accounts that are nearly new with little other activity.
Derbyshire Police have issued a warning about the posts, saying: “We've posted previously about the importance of fact checking before sharing, following a surge in hoax missing persons/animals etc. Currently doing the rounds are hoax posts regarding snakes in toilet bowls!
“Caution should particularly be exercised on posts on community pages where comments have been disabled.”
Honesty in public debate matters
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Do pet snakes escape into the wild?
Although there have been cases of escaped pet snakes being found in and around toilets in homes in the UK, the RSPCA told Full Fact that without food and proper care, such snakes would be likely to only survive for a short time.
The spokesperson said: “Pet snakes are completely dependent on their owners for the correct accommodation, heating, lighting and feed, all of which must replicate their wild habitat as closely as possible to keep them healthy and allow them to express their normal behaviour. Without proper care they can suffer from serious diseases, dehydration, injuries, parasites, and in severe cases or if left untreated, they can eventually die.
“Most exotic animals kept as pets are unlikely to be able to survive in the wild in Britain and non-native species could pose a serious threat to our native wildlife. It is illegal to release, or to allow to escape, any species that are not normally native to the UK.
“If anyone finds a snake they believe is non-native the RSPCA’s advice is to keep a safe distance, monitor the snake and call the charity’s helpline on 0300 1234 999, or a local reptile charity will also be able to help.”
Image courtesy of Brennan Meinke