Neville Linton, 63, was just out grocery shopping on an ordinary day. But little did he know, a spooky surprise awaited him in a bag of broccoli. He had picked up his groceries like always from an Aldi in West Midlands, England. A couple of days later, as he was preparing a meal, he discovered a snake nestled among the vegetables in the bag. For someone terrified of snakes, this was a truly terrifying experience.
A Sneaky Snake Rattles Grocery Shopper
Linton, who does industrial cleaning, was saved by his family. They bravely stepped in and grabbed the snake away from him. The grandfather confessed, "It was pretty frightening. I'm not good with snakes. It's lucky I didn't just leave the broccoli out in the kitchen, or it would have been loose in the house. That would have been a huge risk for us because we have two vulnerable people living here."
When he discovered the critter, he called for his sister, Ann-Marie Tenkanemin, aged 57. She knew it was a snake. Together, they captured the slithery fellow in a plastic box and returned it to Aldi. "I thought she was joking at first," Linton commented on Tenkanemin's snake identification, adding: "but I backed off when I saw it start moving. The guy in the shop was pretty frightened, too."
While he received some compensation, Linton feels that the situation should merit greater compensation, considering the danger posed by the snake to his vulnerable family members, including his disabled son and mother-in-law. "It's just not good enough — the implications for us if it had [gotten] out in the house are huge," he said. "Plus, I'm phobic of snakes, so there's the emotional impact of that, too."
A spokesperson from Aldi provided a statement, saying, "Our supplier has never had a complaint of this nature and has robust processes in place to prevent such issues occurring. We are investigating this isolated incident and have apologized to Mr. Linton that our usual high standards were not met."
What Kind of Snake Was It?
According to Donovan Linton, the son of Linton, a local resident, a specialist from Dudley Zoo confirmed that the creature was a young ladder snake. Even though they may appear scary and can give a painful bite, these snakes are not venomous. They are commonly found in various parts of Europe, including Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. They prefer places with moderate temperatures and plenty of shade, such as hedges, forests, vineyards, rodent burrows, hollow trees, orchards, and boulders. Ladder snakes usually live alone and are known to be aggressive and defensive. To protect themselves, they use their sharp fangs and emit a bad smell to deter attackers. Despite being carnivores, they do not pose a threat to humans; instead, they prey on animals like mice, rabbits, birds, spiders, lizards, and insects. The snake, which invaded a broccoli patch, is now housed at Dudley Zoo.
On the other hand, herpetologist Dr. Steven J. R. Allain has identified it as a viperine water snake, which, thankfully, is less hazardous. "Having reviewed the [actual] photo of the snake in the broccoli, I am not sure the zoo identified the species correctly," Allain said. "To my expert eyes, the snake is in fact a viperine water snake (Natrix maura), which is a harmless fish-eating species found throughout southwestern Europe and northern Africa."
He speculates about how it might have wriggled its way into a broccoli. "Seeing as a large portion of the food grown and imported into the United Kingdom comes from the Mediterranean region, it is no surprise to find a species from this area turning up in some vegetables likely grown there. In my opinion, the snake was likely moving through the field at the time, before being scooped up by agricultural equipment, then seeking refuge within the broccoli."
Not as Scary as They Look
Viperine water snakes might sound menacing, but they're only a threat to fish and frogs. They won't bite humans; in fact, they prefer pretending to be dead rather than attacking. They're considered harmless to people. These snakes can survive for months without food, especially in cold conditions like a refrigerator, which slows down their metabolism. However, the particular snake in this situation wouldn't have appreciated the shift from warm Mediterranean temperatures to the cold, crisp environment of a refrigerator drawer.
Regardless of whether the reptile turns out to be a viperine water snake or a ladder snake, Allain aims to inform the public about these species. He believes that if people learn more about these fragile and often misunderstood creatures, they might become less fearful of them.