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Sunday, 17 February 2013

How to identify species of Snakes of the New Forest UK

uk snake species
There are only three species of snake native to the UK and can be found in the New Forest. They are the Adder (European Viper), Grass snake and Smooth snake.

The Adder


The Adder is a member of the Viper family, a family that includes some highly venomous snakes - eg: Puff Adder, Rattlesnakes and Cottonmouth.

The Adder is also venomous and bites many people each year in the UK (usually people who tread on them or inexperienced people who try to catch or kill them!).

Although most bites are not fatal, they are very painful. It is very important to seek medical treatment if bitten, particularly if the victim is faily young or faily old.

Adders are usually found in areas of heathland or woodland where they can be seen basking in the sun.

Femailes are generally brown with darker brown markings, while males are usually grey/white with much darker markings. The best way to identify an adder is by its distinctive zig-zag pattern. It is the only snake in the UK to have this pattern!

No matter what colour it is, Adders are sometimes very dark in colour, almost completely black. These are called "melanistic" individuals.

If you find an Adder, move slowly so as not to scare it and spend some time observing it. Don't panic and certainly don't try to catch or hurt it!

The Grass Snake


The Grass Snake is part of the colubrid family which includes the majority of the worlds harmless snakes, eg: Corn Snake, Rat Snakes, Garter Snakes and King Snakes.

It is generally an olive green colour with black bars along the side body, not meeting along the spine. It also has a distinct yellow "collar".

The Grass Snake is completely harmless, killing it's prey (mainly frogs, toads and fish) by constriction.

Because of its diet, it is usually found near water, including garden ponds and is a very good swimmer.

If a Grass Snake feels threatened it may turn on its back with its mouth open and tongue hanging out. It's pretendint to be dead so that you won't try to kill it!

The Grass Snake is the only British snake to lay eggs - quite often in compost heaps which keeps them warm.

The Smooth Snake


The Smooth Snake is also a member of the colubrid family, like the Grass Snake and is also completely harmless.

It gets its name because it is the only British snake which has smooth scales. Adders and Grass Snakes have "keeled" scales.

These snakes are very rare in the UK and only found in a few areas of heathland in the south of the country - so you are very lucky if you see one!

They are generally brown or grey in colour with a dark patch on the head and rows of spots running down the body.

If you are lucky enough to find a Smooth Snake, you should not touch or disturb it. They are protected by law!

Snakes of the UK Video


The text of this post was compiled from the following video "Identifying snakes in the UK" by robbielab videos on Youtube. It is a truly excellent visual guide - you'll love it!

Snakes Quiz

There is another creature in the New Forest that looks like a snake but is actually a lizzard. Name that creature? Clue: Watch the video for the answer.

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