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Look out for wild animals in your Christmas tree!

A few households have had surprising visitors.

When my family's Christmas tree came home from the garden center, I noticed an uncomfortable number of spiders lowering themselves from the branches, presumably thawing out after a chilly few weeks. More than a few times I had to holler for my husband to stage an intervention between me and the terrifying little arachnids.

But perhaps I should have been grateful that small spiders were all I had to deal with. Some other families have had far more interesting experiences with wild animals in their Christmas trees.

Take, for example, the family in Atlanta, Georgia, that discovered a small owl clinging to the trunk of their tree earlier this month. They'd had the tree for a week already and decorated it fully, so were understandably shocked to discover their feathery friend nestled in the branches. Katie MacBride Newman told the Guardian that they opened the windows, hoping the owl would fly out, but it did not. Her husband Billy said,

“The owl seemed to be pretty comfortable, and I thought, ‘Hey buddy, it’s not going to go well if you just stay here. There’s no food, I’m sorry.'”

They called a nearby nature center, which recommended that the family try to feed the owl a piece of chicken. An assistant was sent the next day to catch the owl, which was identified as an Eastern screech owl.

As surprising as that experience must have been, it's not as terrifying as what an Australian couple dealt with on the same day, on the other side of the world – a python wrapped around their potted Christmas tree on a balcony. Some birds were going crazy, which led them to look at the tree and discover the 10-foot-long reptile coiled up. Eventually it slithered off, but not before the couple calmed down and appreciated its appearance: “After the initial shock wore off, it was a really beautiful snake.”

This reminded me of yet another story I'd read about a snake in a Christmas tree several years ago. A tiger snake, which is known to be an excellent climber, had entwined itself in the tinsel. A professional snake-catcher was called and removed the animal from the home. Apparently this is a real issue for Australians, as snakes tend to be more active in warm weather.

The lesson learned? Examine your Christmas tree thoroughly before buying! (And don't stress out over spiders… it could be much worse.)

A few households have had surprising visitors.