When Ryan King was called about reports of a saw-scaled viper found in a brickyard he was doubtful. They are among the world’s deadliest snakes and they don’t tend to live in Salford.
The RSPCA inspector, however, quickly realised he was wrong. It was indeed a saw-scaled viper, and it had apparently survived a 4,000-mile trip from Pakistan in a shipment of bricks.
“I was a bit sceptical,” King said. “Sometimes we go to jobs like this and it turns out to be a harmless grass snake. We have even attended snake reports which turn out to be plastic toys.”
A forklift truck driver at Manchester Brick Specialists in Salford spotted the viper last Friday in a container of bricks that had come in about a month ago.
Workers researched what it could be and concluded it looked like a saw-scaled viper, but were unaware of how dangerous it could be. The firm’s logistics manager, Michael Regan, put a cardboard box over it and called the RSPCA.
“I knew to keep a safe distance but obviously had no idea how deadly this snake was,” he said, recalling the moment he was told. “It was pretty shocking.”
Saw-scaled vipers are quite small but have a venomous bite. In India, where around half of the world’s snake-bite deaths are thought to take place, they are feared for their high-speed strikes. There are four species which together account for the highest number of human fatalities.
King said he quickly realised it was a dangerous snake when he saw it. In full protective clothing he was able to pop it in a snake bag and transport it to a new home, an establishment licensed to care for venomous reptiles.
“I just think it was so lucky that they had spotted the snake,” he said. “They are very small and it could have easily bitten someone.
“Anti-venom is available in the countries where the viper originates from, but the snake is so venomous even then it does not always save the victim.
“It was quite an honour to deal with this snake and I am pleased he has a home where he will be looked after.”