Snakes alive across Forest and heathland

adder (c) Darin Smith

adder (c) Darin Smith

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WORRIED residents are telephoning a Wildlife Trust after spotting a snake in their garden.

Jess Price from the Sussex Wildlife Trust 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.”

The first thing she urges people to do is find out what sort of snake they have seen. She explained there are three species native to the UK but we only get two of them in Sussex, the grass snake and the adder. Grass snakes are large, up to 150 cm and have a black and creamy 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 visit, however it does depend on where you live. In urban areas neither snake is common, but in semi-rural locations or in gardens that back onto wild areas the chances are higher. Adders do not regularly visit gardens, but if you live for example in the middle of the Ashdown Forest, near Maresfield or Uckfield then an adder may be slightly more of a possibility.

Grass snakes most often come into gardens looking for food, feeding mainly on amphibians and small fish so garden ponds can be an attractive 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. Both snakes hate being disturbed. If you do get bitten anti-venom medication is effective so it pays to get along to an A&E department. If you are in an area where adders are common it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a lead during spring and summer. If you suspect an adder bite, take your dog to the vet. If you see adders or grass snakes ring Jess on the Wildlife Hotline: 01273 494777