A HOLIDAYMAKER had quite a shock when she found what she thought was a snake curled up among her belongings.

She had returned home from a break in Dorset and was unpacking when she discovered the stowaway in a towel, which turned out to be a slow worm.

The RSPCA was called and animal collection officer Dean Wilkins went to collect the legless lizard from her home in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

He said: “It was quite an odd call! She must had had quite the fright when she saw the little snake-like creature slithering through her bag.

“Once I got there I was quickly able to establish that it wasn’t a snake but a slow worm - which, in fact, isn’t a snake or a worm at all but a lizard with no legs.”

Dean collected the slow worm and took it to the charity’s wildlife centre at RSPCA West Hatch in Taunton, Somerset, for a check-up before it was returned to Knoll Beach, in Swanage, where the woman had been holidaying, to be released back into the wild.

“You’d expect to come back from holiday with a tan or perhaps some souvenirs - but bringing a slow worm home with you is rather unusual!” he added.

Slow worms are widespread throughout Britain (although not in Northern Ireland) and are often found in hedgerows and gardens. They like compost heaps as, unlike other reptiles, they prefer to hide and absorb heat rather than bask in the open.

Slow worms are legless lizards - they have eyelids and flat, forked tongues like other lizards. They grow to around 35-40cm in length and can drop their tail to escape when threatened by a predator.

Male slow worms are a greyish brown in colour and females are brown with dark sides. Some females have a thin line down the back.

Slow worms do not lay eggs but incubate their young internally, ‘giving birth’ in late summer.