According to police in the small town in southern Bavaria, the 44-year-old woman from England was walking into the discount supermarket when she felt a sharp pain in her foot. In a freak attack, the snake bit her big toe after the woman unwittingly stepped on the common European viper, or adder.
“The snake managed to get a hold of her toe and then sneaked away just as she looked down. It was a small bite but it did manage to get some of its poison through the bite,” Officer Walter Schmidt told The Local on Tuesday, describing the incident that happened last week.
The woman spent one night in hospital as a precautionary measure and was released the next day.
“At no time was there any danger to her life,” said Schmidt, who was called to the scene along with ambulance crews.
The 25-centimetre snake was then caught by the owner of a nearby reptile house, Thomas Lücke, who released it in the Pulvermoos nature area near the neighbouring town of Unterammergau.
“In the 19 years I’ve had the reptile house in Oberammergau, this is the first time that I’ve had to catch a European viper,” Lücke told the regional daily Merkur.
Schmidt confirmed that the snake attack was a very unusual case for the region.
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“We have no idea why the snake was in front of the store – you don’t typically see them sitting out in the sun and it could be that it was looking for a cool refuge,” he said.
The bite of the European viper (Vipera berus) is known to be very painful but not always poisonous. The largest specimens of the protected species can grow up to 90 centimetres.