By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A pensioner has spent almost £135K on her collection of deadly snakes and shared her home with more than 500 reptiles.
Sue Coleman, 70, first became fascinated with snakes back in 1992 and has since owned hundreds of the creatures – with some being more than 9ft [2.7 metres] long and able to kill a human in just minutes.
But this doesn’t bother Sue, who currently owns 29 carpet pythons, boa constrictors, Burmese pythons and rainbow boas which are purchased from all over the globe.
Sue, who spends £300 per month on her snakes, insists she’s extra careful with her snake collection as she also owns cats and dogs and has to keep them completely separate – as the snakes can lash out.
Married Sue, from Harwich, Essex, said: “My pension is about £500 per month, but I’m left with very little for myself after caring for the snakes.
“I’ve probably had over 500 snakes, my first were corn snakes as they’re easiest to look after.
“But pretty quickly I adopted some rainbow boas that needed rescuing as they weren’t being looked after properly.
“It’s hard to look after my snakes, and if they’re not looked after properly, they get nervous – some never get over their nervousness and can be dangerous.
“But I treat the serpents like part of the family.
“A lot of these snakes come from warmer, more humid climates so I’m spending £250 on electricity alone.
“I’ve got carpet pythons, boa constrictors, Burmese pythons and rainbow boas to name just a few, that come from all over the world, in places like Australia and South America.”
Sue isn’t left with much extra cash after forking out a small fortune for her pet snakes.
She has also spent around £30,000 in creating the snakes their own separate home, insulating the building and giving the different species separate rooms.
She added: “I feed the snakes frozen rodents, and that costs over £300 every four months.
“I’m lucky that they don’t need to eat often.
“The bigger snakes, such as my carpet python and boa constrictors which live in bigger vivariums are downstairs where they can be heated, then smaller ones like sand boas and corn snakes are upstairs.
“My Burmese pythons have their own separate room which is decorated with branches and they roam freely in there.
“There was initially around 70 in here, when I moved from central London to Essex a few years ago.
“They can strike out but it’s only like a cat scratch – it only hurts more if they hold on as their teeth can hook in.
“Most of the snakes I own are constrictors – which is what they use in the wild to kill and eat.
“Constrictors block off their prey’s airways and constrict the chest – and then can take over an hour to swallow their food, dependant on the size of their dinner.
“Snakes’ senses are so different that their only way to explore the world is through their mouths.
Sue has created a business around her passion, providing educational talks on the variety of snakes she cares for, as well as rescuing any snakes that are lost or abandoned.
She has recently begun to downsize her collection, due to getting older.
Sue added: “My house used to be like a youth centre, with the amount of people coming to look at the snakes.
“My husband George, 64, isn’t as in to it as me any more but I tell him – it’s his fault, as he bought the first corn snake.
“I love all the snakes, but now I’m aware some could now outlive me so I had to make the difficult choice to start re-homing some.
“They’ve all got their own personalities, and I’ve learnt to read their behaviour in case they’re nervous or looking to strike out.
“But I love them all equally, and an awful lot!”
BREAKDOWN OF SUE’S £100,000 EXPENDITURE;
SNAKE HOUSE: £30K
SNAKE FOOD OVER PAST 27 YEARS: £25K
SNAKE TANKS: £4K – many are donated