A SPECIALLY-TRAINED exotic animal hunter was called out to catch a deadly salamander - which turned out to be a child's cuddly TOY.

Armed with gloves and a secure bag for capturing dangerous animals, RSPCA inspector Paul Seddon dashed to a flat after a frantic call from a woman who had spotted the critter on her balcony.

When he arrived at her second floor home in Goring Road, Bilston, West Mids., he found the terrified householder cowering inside the living room.

But when he opened the sliding door during the call out last Friday and approached the salamander, he discovered it was in fact a toy.

It is thought the 12ins long green cuddly toy either got thrown onto the balcony by kids playing below or fell down from the apartment above.

Paul said: "I was quite intrigued having never come across this kind of amphibian before during my career.

"When I arrived at the address the woman who reported the matter was terrified of going near the Juliet balcony on the second floor of her apartment where she said she had spotted the amphibian.

"I went over to the balcony and when I looked through the window I could see the salamander - and could see it was a soft toy complete with label.

"So instead of getting any equipment out to capture the creature as I expected - I borrowed a brush to knock it off onto the ground.

"The woman seemed shocked to find out it was only a toy but relieved at the same time and was very apologetic.

"She called us with good intentions and these things sometimes happen."

It's not the first time Paul has been called out to rescue animals which turned out to be completely different.

He added: "I remember one job when I was called to rescue a bat - but it turned out to be a moth.

"I also got called to a trapped seagull in a hedge which turned out to be a carrier bag.

"Then on one occasion I was called out to a field to try and locate an injured Friesian cow but couldn't find it.

"The following day the man who reported it said he had been for a second look and it was in fact an old white bath in a field and the black marks were where the enamel had fallen off."

Assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate Dermot Murphy says: "When you're working with animals, you expect the unexpected - but some of the calls we get are downright bizarre.

"From stuffed toys to socks, our officers have had it all.

"And while it's a bit of light relief in a generally tough and emotional job, there's a serious message here too.

"The RSPCA is under increasing pressure and we're facing more calls each year. We appreciate that most people mean well but we would urge callers to stop and think before asking us for help.

"While we'd like to be able to help everyone, we simply haven't got the staff to personally investigate each and every issue that the public brings to us.

"We must prioritise to make sure we get to the animals most in need."