An escaped snake could leave some people hiss-terical.

But it is a reality for Allison and Darren Cotton after their beloved pet snake Sammy went missing in a Southampton pet shop six months ago.

Mrs Cotton, 48, from Cheriton Avenue, Harefield, said the couple left the California Kingsnake in the care of the Southampton Reptile Centre before jetting off to Tenerife for a holiday last September.

However, they were left stunned when staff informed them that their 5ft long pet had escaped from its tank while they were away.

Mrs Cotton says both staff and family members have since carried out searches of the store, in Deacon Road, Merry Oak, but 12-year-old Sammy has not been found.

Despite reassurances from staff that the brown and cream striped snake would not have left the premises, Mrs Cotton now fears Sammy could have escaped the shop or may have been taken.

Mrs Cotton claims she was told a member of staff left the tank open.

She told the Daily Echo: “They said they would offer me another snake but we’ve had it a long time. “

They kept saying it’s in the shop and hasn’t got out. “They are saying he got out at night. If he’s out there and someone has got him I am hoping they will come forward.

“I’ve had him since he was a baby and he’s part of the family.”

Mrs Cotton said Sammy is usually left at home when she goes on holiday – but the couple took him to the store as they were having their bathroom refitted.

An employee at the Southampton Reptile Centre refused to give his name but confirmed the snake had escaped from the tank.

He added the situation was regrettable and staff are confident the snake is hibernating through the prolonged cold period and is still in the store.

Snake expert James Grant, assistant manager at Grange Reptiles in Woodhouse Lane, Botley, said it was unlikely the snake would survive in the wild.

He said: “I have known, through customers, that snakes have got out of the house and been found in the garden.

“I doubt it would survive in the wild.

“If it’s loose in a house running with temperatures of 20C, they can go through a brumation period of time – not a full-scale hibernation.

“In the cold they are a little bit docile.

“If it’s an adult and they are well fed, they would be fine to go for a year without food.

“It can stay in hibernation longer than usual during prolonged cold spells.”