A Devon seaside town is gripped by fear as experts believe a seven-foot snake that has been on the loose for weeks could be a venomous killer, writes John Bett.

Sean Nichol, 51, was called out by a homeowner who said they had seen the massive snake in his garden, and described it as having an 'arrow' head shape.

The snake expert instantly recognised the description and identified it as a pit viper - which packs a deadly venom which can kill in small doses.

Despite a two-week daily search around Brixham in Devon, Sean and his team have been unable to locate the deadly animal.

It has also been spotted by a local postman and Sean, who runs For Goodness Snakes, said it was a race against time to catch it before it hurt someone.

Sean said: "We've got to find this thing, it could be very dangerous - it could go for dogs or even small children.

"From what we've been told it sounds like a viper, going by the shape of its head.

"A guy saw it in his garden and he was worried, he's got dogs and a teenager living at home.

"He thought it was a viper too, he used to catch snakes when he was a kid so he knows how to identify them.

"He described the head as arrow shaped, and said it was quite big - big enough to climb his three garden steps with ease."

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It is believed the snake may have escaped from a collector who hasn't reported for fear of getting in trouble.

Sean added: "It must have come from some person who is collecting them but shouldn't be.

"You need a licence to keep these snakes because they are so dangerous, and from what I'm told there is no one with the right paperwork in the area."

Sean said it was difficult to say exactly what type of viper it was, but that the type of snake packs a deadly punch.

He said if bitten the flesh around the bite will begin to rot, while the venom will shut down your immune system and cause respiratory issues.

Sean added: "We've been searching in the area for two weeks and we haven't find it, we'll be going back again today.

"The trouble is there are a million places it could hide, it will be almost impossible to find.

"We've got one chance - snakes are like us, after a meal they like to lay about in the sunshine and rest.

"The window for spotting it is between 12 and 3, when the day is at it's hottest - that's when people should be on the lookout.

"If anyone sees it they should call me immediately and I'll go straight there."

Vipers are a type of venomous snakes that have hinged fangs that enable them to inject their poison deep into their victim.

They are found all over the world and the adder, found in the UK, is also from the viper family - but has only mild venom compared to some in the group.

Potent viper venom is known to be incredibly painful and dangerous, causing death, by collapsing blood pressure, or asphyxiation because the diaphragm ceases to work.

Even with proper treatment, a bite can leave a permanent scar, and in the worst cases, the affected limb may even have to be amputated.