Elephant hawk-moth caterpillar, Pencoed, August 2019 iiiAn RSPCA officer had a surprise – after responding to a call about a snake in Pencoed; only to arrive to find an elephant hawk-moth caterpillar!

RSPCA attended the Penybont Road property after concerns that a non-native species of snake was in the garden, where the animal had been confined by a concerned resident.

However, the animal was actually an elephant hawk-moth caterpillar!

The caterpillars retract their head and inflate the front of their body if they feel under threat – which some believe leaves them resembling a snake. This is a typical defense mechanism in some species; where animals have evolved to look or behave like other more dangerous animals.

Ultimately, however, after the process of metamorphosis, the caterpillar will transform into an elephant hawk-moth, which are well known for their distinctive olive-brown and pink colouring.

An RSPCA officer checked out the caterpillar, and found no welfare concerns – so safely released the moth-to-be back to the wild. The rescue took place this morning (30 August).

RSPCA animal collection officer Ellie West said: “I arrived at the property expecting to deal with a small snake – but instead was greeted by this caterpillar!

“They’re really interesting animals; that can inflate their front end, and have circular dots along their body, so they’re easily mistaken for snakes.

“Fortunately, the caterpillar was fine – and we’re very grateful to the caller, who thought they were helping a non-native loose snake. Instead, however, this caterpillar has been returned to the wild, and can look forward to transforming into a beautiful moth!”

Should you wish to help RSPCA Cymru, you can donate online.