A gasping gardener has told of his slithering surprise as he opened his compost bin only to find he had a new lodger – of the lengthy variety.
David Wootton, 68, of Station Road, Ironville, was doing some gardening when he opened the compost bin in his garden to find the mostly harmless grass snake hidden inside.
David, a retired building industry estimator and father of two grown-up daughters, said: “I flipped open the compost bin and there it was, looking up at me.
“I went to get my camera but by the time I had come back it was gone.
“Then it appeared again yesterday, back in the bin, and luckily I had my camera with me so I took some photos.”
David had encountered a grass-snake - very common across England, and not poisonous so he wasn’t worried.
“I wasn’t scared at all, just very surprised. My dog has free roam of the garden so it was quite unexpected to find anything in there.
“I went online to make sure it wasn’t an adder, but it was quite nice to see.”
A keen gardener, David says he can usually be found in the back yard, and hopes he has a ‘wildlife-friendly garden’.
“I hope it comes back - I’ve seen newts before, hedgehogs, frogs, but never a snake before.”
The RSPCA’s wildlife scientific officer Llewelyn Lowen said to be careful around snakes during summer when they lay their eggs.
He added: “If you find small white leathery eggs (about 24mm by 15mm) in a compost heap or sawdust pile these are grass snake eggs – no other British snake lays eggs externally. Eggs should not be disturbed between June and the end of September. The nest site can be dismantled during the autumn after the young have dispersed.”
The common grass snake, sometimes called the ringed snake or ‘water snake’, is a non-venomous snake often found near water and feeds almost entirely on amphibians. Typically dark green or brown with a yellow collar, they are the largest reptile in the UK, reaching six feet long. Not being venomous, their only defence is to produce a garlic-smelling fluid or to feign death by becoming completely limp and sometimes secreting blood from the mouth to make it more convincing. They may also perform an aggressive display and strike without actually opening the mouth.