‘Snakin’ around Ballintra

Pious legend credits St. Patrick with banishing snakes from Ireland chasing them into the sea after they assailed him during a 40-day Lenten fast he was undertaking on top of a hill

Pious legend credits St. Patrick with banishing snakes from Ireland chasing them into the sea after they assailed him during a 40-day Lenten fast he was undertaking on top of a hill

However, all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes, like other insular nations- New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica.

Until two weeks ago no serpent has successfully migrated across the open ocean until a nice orange corn snake started snaking around Ballintra much to the surprise of its adopted carers.

Joe and Claire Conroy, a teacher in Scoil Catriona in Ballyshannon had gone over to Telford in England to help their daughter Eimear move apartments.

Being the handy person that he is Joe brought along his tool box which came in handy in both dismantling and erecting new shelves and other bits and pieces.

The couple had not really noticed their daughter’s caged pet, the bright orange Zinga and really only became aware of it when they received a call from Eimear saying it was missing.

Little did they ever imagine that Zinga had slithered into an Ireland-bound toolbag and made her way to Donegal courtesy of the Holyhead ferry.

Last weekend an unsuspecting Joe dipped his hand into his toolbag just as he was about to start on some necessary repairs and got the shock of his life.

Joe said, “I actually felt something move in my hand and when I lifted it out I saw that I had the snake by the head. It was only two feet long, but no way was I happy holding a snake -- no matter what the size.”

His brother - in - law, well known Ballyshannon businessman Pearse O’Neill said, “If the truth be known he got one hell of a fright - he nearly had a heart attack!

“There might be plenty of snakes around at times but never the reptile variety!”

Paddy got a plastic container and used a stick to topple the snake into it, before sealing the lid and then he phoned Eimear to tell her Zinga had been discovered and was safe and well.

Her first reaction was to tell her father to feed it - after all it had been two weeks on the run.

“I told her I’m not going to SuperValu to ask for a dead mouse!” Joe said.

Eventually, Zinga was driven to Ulrike Vaughan’s vet clinic on the Kinlough Road in Ballyshannon.

The vet said at the weekend she was seeking a home for the snake with someone who knows how to care for exotic pets. She added it was unlikely there would be problems over Zinga’s entry to Ireland since he would have been already classed as a safe pet in the UK.

The docile nature of the corn snake, moderate adult size 3.9–5.9 ft. and attractive pattern with comparatively simple care make them popular pet snakes. In the wild, they usually live around 6-8 years, but in captivity can live to be up to 23 years.