SNAKES Are adder bites dangerous Useful information

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					Are adder bites dangerous?                                  Useful information:
                                                                                                                                          A KENT WILDLIFE TRUST INFORMATION SHEET
For most people an adder bite will cause only Reptiles in your garden: your questions
mild discomfort and swelling but any bite         Answered Leaflet by Natural England
should be regarded as potentially serious and
immediate medical advice should be sought.        Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (KRAG)
Do not try to catch the snake for identification.
To put adder bites in perspective only around
12 people are known to have died from adder
bites in the last 100 years whereas several
people die from insect stings each year.
                                                                                                                                          Britain has three native species of snake - the grass snake,
Dealing with injured snakes.
                                                                                                                                          adder and the very rare smooth snake. Smooth snakes are only
In most cases it is best to leave the snake
alone. Never attempt to capture an adder                                                                                                  found on small numbers of heathland sites in Surrey, Dorset
contact the Kent Reptile and Amphibian                                                                                                    and Hampshire.
Group. Snakes have amazing powers of
recovery from even the most horrific injuries.                                                                                            Here we look at the adder and grass snake, both found in Kent.
Snakes and the law.
Both the grass snake and adder are protected
under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act
as amended. Under this act it is illegal to kill,
injure or sell them.

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                                          Your Living Landscape. Your Living Seas.
                                                                                                                                         Version 11 2010
Habits for Snakes                                  Feeding                                          Snakes and their young.
Grass snakes often live near water, where          Grass snakes feed mainly on frogs and            Adders bear their young live, as the young
they swim and feed. They also live in damp         toads, but also eat fish, newts and small        snakes develop from the eggs within the
woodlands and meadows. For overwintering           rodents. They will occasionally take nestling    mother’s body. She gives birth between July
they like high, dry banks covered with             birds. They swallow their prey head first and    and October. The young are enclosed in a
brambles and rabbit burrows, and also              usually alive!                                   membrane from which they emerge shortly
garden rockeries. Kent is a stronghold for the     Adders feed on voles, mice, lizards, nestling    after birth.
grass snake.                                       birds, eggs, frogs and toads, and insect         Grass snakes lay eggs, mainly from late
Adders are found in a variety of habitats but      larvae. The adder injects its prey with venom    June to August. The eggs are laid where
in Kent adders are associated with chalk           and then follows it, waiting for it to die.      conditions are humid, including manure and
downland. They are in decline in Kent. They                                                         compost heaps, piles of straw or logs, walls        Grass snake
often return to the same places to overwinter                                                       and foundations of buildings.                       with a yellowish white band
in groups.                                         A grass snake is eating                                                                              followed by a black band forming a
                                                   my goldfish what can I do?                                                                           collar behind the head
How to tell the difference
between a grass snake and an adder?                The snake could be removed to another
                                                   suitable habitat, but we would not encourage
Adders are rarely more than 65cm in length.        this. Nothing will deter a grass snake from
The usually have a greyish/brown colouration       visiting a pond. Any netting is likely to trap
with a continuous black zigzag on their back       the snake, so why not enjoy the honour of                                      slow worm
and roundish blotches on each side.                being visited by such a lovely animal. For a
The zigzag is usually preceded with a V-           thriving wildlife pond goldfish are best left
shape mark on the back of the head, though         out anyway as they eat everything!               Slow worms.
this mark may be X- or H-shaped.                                                                    No, slow worms are not snakes but legless
                                                   Snakes and hibernation.                          lizards, and may be up to 45cm in length.
Grass snakes are often longer than adders
                                                   Snakes hibernate any time from the end of        They look like a snakes but have eyelids and
adults reach between 80cm and 120cm.
                                                   September onwards, depending on the              a sheddable tail. Slow worms are semi-
Their background colour is olive-green, grey
                                                   weather. They may hibernate underground          nocturnal and feed on slugs, snails and
or brownish with a distinctive, usually
                                                   using, for example, the holes made by            insects. They have a polished appearance
whitish-yellow and black, collar. This collar is
                                                   mammals or tree roots. They may also             with shades of coppery gold and vivid dark
occasionally absent in larger individuals.
                                                   hibernate in manure heaps, rock piles and        brown sides when young. They are far more
Black vertical bars and spots run along each
                                                   hedgerows. They may hibernate singly or in       common than adders or grass snakes, and             Adder
                                                   groups.                                          Kent is a stronghold for them.                      showing the head markings before
In the grass snake the eye has a round pupil                                                                                                            the diamond pattern which gives
in the adder it is vertical.                                                                        Poisonous British snakes.                           rise to the zigzag down the back
                                                                                                    Of the three British snakes, only the adder is
                                                                                                    venomous. An adder will not bite unless
                                                                                                    provoked. Never disturb or try to pick up an
                                                                                                    A grass snake may bite if seriously provoked,
                                                                                                    but the bite is not harmful. It is more likely to
                                                                                                    spray an evil-smelling liquid from its rear end!

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