A man who went to a supermarket to get some groceries came back with a snake and didn’t realize it until after the animal got familiar with his food.
Last month, 63-year-old Neville Linton bought a bag of broccoli from an Aldi branch in Stourbridge, England, and stored it in his fridge before taking it out to prepare a meal three days later.
But when he unwrapped the broccoli, however, the man immediately saw the unexpected guest. Continue scrolling to learn how the ordeal went down and don’t miss the talk we had about it with Dr. Steven J R Allain, aka The pop-punk Herpetologist.
A snake that was exploring a broccoli field somewhere in southwestern Europe got packed up and shipped to a British supermarket
Without suspecting, Neville Linton, 63, picked it up together with a bag of vegetables and took the reptile home
Neville, who works in industrial cleaning, couldn’t believe his eyes.
“It was pretty frightening. I’m not good with snakes,” he said. “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.”
Once he realized the creature was too big to be a caterpillar, he called his sister Ann-Marie Tenkanemin for help and she identified it as a snake.
The pair popped it in a tub and went back to the Aldi store on Dudley Road where Neville made the purchase.
“I thought she was joking at first, but I backed off when I saw it start moving. The guy in the shop was pretty frightened too,” he said.
The snake was taken to a local zoo and its specialists determined that it was a young ladder snake
But herpetologist Dr. Steven J R Allain suspects it might be a viperine water snake
The reptile was transported to Dudley Zoo, and its staff believe it to be a young ladder snake. However, Bored Panda got in touch with Dr. Steven J R Allain and he tends to disagree.
“Having reviewed the [actual] photo of the snake in the broccoli, I am not sure the zoo identified the species correctly,” Allain told us. “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.”
Allain is a zoology graduate from Anglia Ruskin University, a Master’s graduate from Imperial College London, and a current Ph.D. student at the University of Kent. His current area of research is primarily based around barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica) population ecology and the effects of ophidiomycosis, but he’s also interested in amphibian disease and population ecology.
“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.”
The trip to the UK and then another one to Neville’s home took some time, but Allain said that these snakes are able to go a couple of months without food, and the chilling of the fridge would have helped keep its metabolism low, reducing the body’s energy demands.
“However, I can’t imagine it would have been comfortable,” he added. “Especially the rapid transition from the warm Mediterranean climate to a chiller, in order to keep the broccoli fresh.”
“Viperine water snakes are dangerous only if you’re a fish (or a frog). They do not bite humans as a defense mechanism (they’d much rather play dead), and they are regarded as non-venomous to humans.”
“I know this must have been a distressing time for Neville (especially for someone with a fear of snakes), but his reaction could have been more positive through more widespread education and understanding of snakes, and how to deal with situations like this,” Allain said. “It isn’t the snake’s fault that it ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but hopefully its new home at Dudley Zoo can help with breaking down these fears of snakes.”
Neville is trying to get compensated for having to go through all of this
Neville has been offered compensation but is trying to get more.
The father-of-three said the amount he heard didn’t sound fair because of the risk to his disabled son and vulnerable mother-in-law, who live under the same roof.
“It’s just not good enough,” he added. “The implications for us if it had got out in the house are huge. Plus, I’m phobic of snakes so there’s the emotional impact of that too.”
An Aldi spokesperson reported: “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.”