A baby pale-headed snake thought to have hitched a ride from Queensland to Sydney in a bag of lettuce has returned home after a 2000-kilometre round trip.
Sydney woman Lesley Kuhn claims her son found the venomous reptile wrapped around lettuce leaves, inside a packet she bought from a local Aldi supermarket.
A team from the New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) drove the reptile nearly 1000 kilometres in a “relay” to Toowoomba, to release it in the region where the lettuce was picked.
“Everything has a right to live and go back to where they belong,” WIRES emergency responder Amy Wregg said.
“You get the haters that would rather see [a snake] chopped up in a million pieces.
“But he’s a little hatchling that just got himself into a bit of mischief.
“He’s venomous, but he’s not deadly so it’s enough to make you sick but not kill you.”
Long drive, quick exit
Roughly the size of a pen, the snake spent a week with a carer in New South Wales to recover from its first journey.
WIRES staff believe it survived by going into torpor – a semi-hibernation state – when the lettuce was packed into cold storage.
“Reptiles don’t normally like to be that cold so he has recovered quite well and quite quickly,” Ms Wregg said.
Once freed in Toowoomba bushland, the snake quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.
“I think he’s been used to being in a tub and a pillowcase for a while so with fresh leaf litter and sun, he was out of there,” Ms Wregg said.
“It’s such a joy to be able to bring them back to the wild. They’re always a big part of the ecosystem.
“If you leave them alone, they’ll continue on their way.”
Cute but ‘nasty’
Pale-headed snakes are found in forests, woodlands and on floodplains in parts of Queensland and NSW, often hiding in hollow trees.
The species eats vertebrates, including frogs, geckos and skinks, as well as mice.
One of its greatest threats is habitat clearing.
Ms Wregg said her hopes for the snake, after its big adventure, were that “he’ll live a long and happy life and stay off roads and doesn’t find himself in any more lettuce leaves”.
“We all get attached to all the animals that we release,” she said.
“A little one like that is quite cute even though he’s quite a nasty snake.”
Aldi is still investigating the report.