Snakes alive

DID you know it’s illegal to kill or harm an adder?Winterton Adders

Natural England advises: “Adders are protected by law in Great Britain. It is illegal to intentionally kill or injure adders, or to trade in them.

"During dry periods adders may come into gardens to seek water or search for prey. If you encounter an adder keep a good distance away - the snake is as scared of you as you are of it!”  

An adder in your garden is most likely just passing through and will eventually leave of its own accord. If you accidentally corner one back away slowly. This will indicate to the adder that you are not a threat and it is less likely to strike.  

The animals tend to avoid contact with people so will steer clear of you, but it’s a good idea to keep children and pets indoors until you're sure it's gone.

If you are bitten by an adder you should seek immediate medical attention. Drink plenty of fluids and apply a sterile dressing to the wound, but not a tight bandage or tourniquet - that will lead to the venom concentrating in one part of the body and could destroy the flesh in that area. Never try and suck the venom out with your mouth or squeeze the bite.

If your dog is bitten by an adder it will need anti-venom urgently. Adder bites can be fatal especially in small dogs. The nearest vets that stock anti-venom are Caister Vets. Tel: 01493 809766.

If there’s a wounded snake in your garden, please call the RSPCA on 0300 123 4999.

You may encounter an adder in the dunes at Winterton. Keep an eye on the ground as you walk and be careful when moving through overgrown areas. They like to bask directly in the sun, but will retreat to the undergrowth to cool down and hide for safety. They will usually move away in the presence of humans and can detect footsteps through the vibrations in the ground.

Natural England also tells us: "The adder is one of Britain’s three native snake species, most often found on heaths, moors and coastal areas. However, its secretive nature and camouflaged markings mean it often goes unnoticed. Whilst it has a large range across the UK, recent declines especially in central England, mean it is of major conservation concern.

"The adder is the UK’s only venomous snake. Though potentially serious, adder bites to humans or dogs are very rarely fatal. There are only around ten recorded cases of death [human] from adder bites in the last 100 years, and most bites occur when the snake has been disturbed or deliberately antagonised.

The adder is easily recognised by a dark, continuous 'zig-zag' stripe along its back. There is also a row of dark spots along each side. The background colour varies from grey-white in the male to shades of brown or copper in the female. Young adders are copper, light brown or reddish, with darker brown markings. Completely black adders occur in some areas. Adders can grow to around 60cm in length."

Mating takes place in April/May and females give birth to around 6 to 20 live young in August or September. Adders feed largely on small rodents and lizards. They hibernate from around October to February, depending on local conditions.