Your photographs: Adders

There are no snakes in Ireland famously declared Thomas Rain Crowe, St Patrick chased them all away (or more correctly there was this little known thing called an Ice Age). Mainland Britain however does have a healthy snake population.

The UK supports 3 species of Snake, European Adder (Vipera berus), Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), and the exceptionally rare Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)

The European Adder is venomous, and represented the only venomous snake within most country areas of its range. In Britain there have been only 14 known fatalities since 1876; the last being a 5-year-old child in 1975.

Venom Vs Poison

Due to human expansion into the specie’s habitat contact frequency is increasing. If an adder is spotted in the wild it is important not to approach them too closely and never to handle them. A man was left in a serious condition after handling an adder in Yorkshire last week of 4th August 2014. Adder bites are very rarely life threatening but immediate medical attention should be sought. Symptoms include swelling, vomiting, nausea and dizziness. Anaphylaxis occurs occasionally and can result in cardiovascular failure.

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to kill, injure, harm, or sell adders under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Adders are sexually dimorphic in terms of colour. Females are usually brownish in hue with dark-brown markings whereas males are pure grey with black markings.  Variation beyond this is possible with colour patterns ranging from very light-coloured specimens to melanistic (black) individuals.

Diet is dependent on locality ranging from small mammals from mice to moles as well as lizards, amphibians and even birds.

Females breed once every two years. Males locate females by following scent trails and pursuing fleeing females. Courtfish involves tongue flicking and a side-by-side parallel dance and wagging of tails.

Females givebirth to live young in August to September. The young are encased in transparent sacs must free themselves.

Adders are the only species of snake in the UK to have vertical pupil, grass snakes have round pupils.

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Samanta Webster

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