Canberra, Australia (AP) – Alex White thought he was watching a big worm in a plastic wrapped lettuce he brought home from a Sydney supermarket – until a snake’s tongue flew away.
“When this little tongue came out of its mouth and started to look around and I realized it was a snake, I was completely blown away when I saw that the worms had no tongues,” White said Thursday.
“I was kind of panicked, of course,” he said.
The venomous pale-headed snake that traveled 870 kilometers (540 miles) from a packaging plant in the Australian city of Duamba to Sydney was covered with plastic with two heads of gauze.
The refrigerated supermarket supply chain turned white teen into a fool until he bought white lettuce at an Alti supermarket on Monday evening and rode his bicycle home with his bag of salad and snakes.
White and his partner Amelia Neat saw the snake move as the spinach was unwrapped on the kitchen table.
They noticed that the plastic wrap was torn and that the snake might have escaped, so they quickly stuffed the reptile with lettuce into a plastic food storage container.
White called the WIRES rescue system, and that night a snake handler picked up the snake.
Before the handler arrived, White said the virus explained to him: “If you get bitten, you need to go to the hospital quickly.”
Aldi is investigating how a snake entered a supermarket.
“We’ve worked with the client and team at WIRES to identify the snake’s natural habitat. This is definitely not an Alti store!” The German-based supermarket chain said in a statement.
WIRES reptile coordinator Gary Pattinson said that when the snake is less than 20 centimeters (8 inches), it is “as venomous as ever.”
Pattinson has been monitoring the snake until he returns to Queensland next week, following a WIRES policy of returning the recovered wildlife wherever it comes from.
“This is the first snake I put in a sealed, packed item,” Pattinson said. “We always get frogs in them.”
Neat, a German immigrant, said his brush with a venomous snake in the Sydney kitchen was a setback in efforts to reassure relatives in Europe that Australia has nothing to worry about with its deadly outback wildlife.
“For the past 10 years or so I have been telling my family at home that Australia is the safest country,” Neat said.
“I said I’ve always been in the city; it’s totally fine here,” he added.
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