Construction sites present an array of hazards at the best of times but the discovery of an eight-foot-long python lounging in a ditch proved too much for workers in the Indian city of Agra this week.
Work was halted for three hours on the Gangajal water supply project in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, after the large constrictor was spotted in a trench meant for pipelines on 23 January.
But although humans are conditioned to fear large predators, concern turned out to be mostly for the snake, which was an Indian Rock Python, considered a near threatened species.
Wildlife authorities were promptly notified and the python was "rescued" by a rapid response team from the organisation Wildlife SOS.
After a health examination, the python was released into its natural habitat, reported Indian news agency, PTI.
"The snake made an appearance because this area falls in the deeper part of the forest," said the group’s wildlife conservation director, Baiju Raj MV.
"It is a good thing that the people of this area now wait for the experts to arrive rather than take matters into their own hands," co-founder of Wildlife SOS, Kartick Satyanarayan said.
The Indian Rock Python is non-venomous but the way pythons hunt – by coiling their powerful body around large animals to kill them before swallowing them whole – can inspire terror, even though the Indian Rock is described as lethargic, timid, slow and reluctant to attack even when provoked.
Documented python attacks on humans are rare, and fatalities rarer still, although tragedy struck the Canadian city of Campbellton, New Brunswick, in 2013 when a pet African Rock Python escaped its enclosure and killed two small boys who were spending the night at a friend’s home.
Photograph: Feeling threatened, a python gives its "lethal stare" at the California Academy of Sciences (Walter Alejandro/Creative Commons)