GOLFERS have been warned to watch out for snakes in the grass after two exotic visitors slithered onto a Hyndburn golf course.
Two four-feet long boa constrictors have been caught at Baxenden Golf Club in the past week, far from their usual habitat in the tropical forests and savannahs of South America.
There are fears that they have been abandoned and more could be lurking down the fairways. But they are unlikely to be dangerous to humans because of their poor physical condition.
Former Lancashire and England cricketer Ian Austin, 37, got the shock of his life when he came face to face with one of the reptiles as he took his dogs for an early-morning walk last Thursday.
Ian, of Coleridge Drive, Baxenden, was walking through the moorland grass surrounding the course with his Jack Russells, Oscar and Bully, when he spotted what he thought was a stick.
He said: "I tapped it with the golf club I was carrying and it moved. Then this head popped up and there were two eyes staring at me.
"I made a hasty retreat and went and told groundkeeper Bill Horvath who phoned the police and the RSPCA. It's definitely not what I expected to see on an early-morning walk. To say I was surprised is an understatement.''
RSPCA officer Helen Chapman came and collected the snake, which has been named Ben after golfer Ben Curtis who won the Open Championship last weekend.
The severely emaciated snake was taken to an exotic animals expert in Manchester, where it now appears to be making good progress.
It was initially thought that it was an escaped pet but after the discovery of a second boa constrictor on the course, RSPCA officers have come to the conclusion that the snakes, which can grow to nine-feet long, have been deliberately abandoned.
The second snake was spotted near the fourth hole by golfer Dave Edwards, 41, of Queen Street, Clayton-le-Moors, on Tuesday night.
He and a friend were searching for a lost ball when they spotted the snake curled up on the grass.
It was caught by staff at the club before being handed over to animal collection officer Jon Kerrigan on Wednesday morning.
Experts say that boa constrictors cannot survive long in cold weather and the pair would have died had it not been for the recent warm spell.