A snake measuring up to five-feet long is on the loose after it is thought to have been ditched at a flytipping hotspot.
The reptile, believed to be king corn snake, was spotted on a fence in Station Road, East Boldon, but disappeared into the bushes before the RSPCA or a reptile experts could be reached.
A vivarium tank was found nearby and it is thought the animal had been dumped.
Experts say the snake it will be harmless to people, but could be in search of somewhere warm to stay.
One witness, a 55-year-old man from Jarrow’s Scotch Estate, came across the reptile while walking his dog after another man reported seeing it near Brockley Whins Metro station.
He said: “He said to me ‘What do you think about that?’ and he showed me. I’m terrified of snakes anyway and so was he.
It was yellow and black and I would say between 4ft and 5ft, bigger than my arm.Eye witness
“It was just on top of the fence near where people collect cloudberries.
“There’s always flytipping around there and I’d seen a tank on the side. It seems like somebody has dumped the tank with the snake in it.
“It was yellow and black and I would say between 4ft and 5ft and thicker than my arm.”
He added: “Other people I’ve shown the photo to say it’s a king corn snake, but I don’t know if they get that big.”
His suspicion has been confirmed by Andrew Nickerson, 25, from South Shields, who is managing director Reptile Hotel in Birtley, which had a base in Fallow Road, Marsden, until 2016.
He said: “I don’t think it’s a python, just from the pattern. It looks like a big fat corn snake, which will only be interested in mice.
“They come in lots of different colours and can be up to 6ft, this one looks like it’s been well fed.
“People don’t need to be frightened, but it does need to get home. If it has been well looked after, it’ll probably be quite tame.”
He added: “If anybody finds it they can drop us a message and we’ll offer some advice. They can also ring the RSCPA or they take it to a pet shop with a reptile section.
“They usually live in temperatures of 30° and at this time of year it’s not too bad. Later the weather could prove fatal.”
He said the snake could try and find somewhere warm.
Northumbria Police confirmed it took a report of the sighting at 4.30pm on Monday and anyone who spots it should call the RSPCA’s hotline on 0300 1234 999.