Native snakes suffer from ‘a lack of understanding’

Adder Picture by Darin Smith
Adder Picture by Darin Smith

SUSSEX snakes have been causing alarm after slithering into residents’ gardens.

Jess Price, wildlife information officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, has received an influx of calls from worried residents who have spotted a snake in their garden.

Grass snake. Photo by Neil Fletcher

Grass snake. Photo by Neil Fletcher

She said, “There is just something about snakes that seems to concern people.

“More likely, I think it’s simply a lack of understanding of our native wildlife and the risk that it poses to us.”

There are three species of snake native to the UK, but only two of them can be found in Sussex – the grass snake (far right) and the adder (right).

Grass snakes are large, up to 150 cm and have a black and cream/yellow collar just behind their head and a series of ‘dots and dashes’ running down each side of their body.

Adders are smaller, around 60 to 80 cm and have a ‘V’ or an ‘X’ on their head with a thick black zigzag running down the top of their back.

Grass snakes are more likely to be spotted in the garden, looking for food.

They mainly feed on amphibians and small fish so garden ponds can be a good hunting ground.

They can also be attracted to compost heaps where they sometimes lay their eggs.

Adders do not like to be disturbed, so will avoid areas with people, but they will occasionally pass through gardens on route to somewhere else.

Grass snakes are non-venomous and completely harmless, but adders can give a nasty bite.

However, neither snake likes being disturbed and if they sense someone approaching they will simply slither away undercover.

Adders do not want to waste their venom biting something they can’t eat so will only use it to defend themselves as a last resort.

Adder bites can be painful, but are rarely serious. In most cases the only treatment required is observation in hospital.

As a precaution, you may be asked to stay in hospital for 24 hours to be monitored.

Anti-venom medication is an effective antidote to snake venom and can be used to treat more severe snake bites.

If you are unlucky enough to get bitten it’s a good idea to go to your nearest Accident and Emergency and get checked over.

Adder bites are more common in dogs and can be more serious – but most recover after receiving anti-venom treatment.

Jess Price is always interested to hear about snake sightings as our native species are declining due to illegal persecution and loss of suitable habitats.

Report your sightings via the website or ring the WildCall hotline 01273 494777.