A PRECIOUS opportunity to spot one of Britain's most shy and reclusive animals literally fell out of the skies above Haworth.

Wildlife biologist Dr Toni Bunnell was surprised but delighted to discover an adder snake on the bonnet of a vehicle parked in the Bronte Parsonage Museum Car Park.

The 66-centimetre long adder, which is the only venomous snake found in the wild in Britain, was lying dead on the bonnet of a Land Rover.

Dr Bunnell, who was in Haworth last Tuesday afternoon (Aug 5) to deliver copies of a book she has written to a local shop, said she understood the adder must have been grabbed by a bird of prey, but was too big for the bird to handle so had been dropped.

She explained: "We were just about to leave the car park, when my husband said 'look at that'.

"There was a Land Rover parked a few yards away from our car, and the snake was just lying on the bonnet."

Dr Bunnell, 64, said she approached the snake very cautiously, and only removed it when she was certain it was dead. She said its injuries were consistent with the talons of a bird, probably a buzzard.

"It was a hot day but it hadn't dried out at all, so it couldn't have been dead for long," she added.

"I took lots of photos of it, and took it home and measured it. It was a 66-centimetre long male, though adders can grow up to 80-centimetres.

"I've only ever seen an adder once before, in the North York Moors, and that was many years ago."

Dr Bunnell, who lives in York, is a retired lecturer, but is still carrying out research into hedgehog populations. She said that although her own specialism is mammal conservation, she was very pleased to have had a close encounter with such a rarely-seen British reptile.

She advised anyone lucky enough to glimpse a live adder to keep a safe distance, pointing out that this poisonous snake can move very rapidly.

She noted that only a few days after her own experience, the national press reported on an incident where a man was hospitalised after being bitten three times by an adder which he picked up in a forest in North Yorkshire.