miked's picture

where have all the snakes gone?

It may be that I'm looking back with rose tinted spectacles but 30 years ago going for walks at this time of year in suitable habitat in suitable weather in Kent I could more or less guarentee seeing 10+ adders, often basking on the paths. Whereas on recent walks for several hours each in sutiable habitats in ideal weather conditions in 'hotspots' of reptile distribution in surrey there was just one adder at each site and a few lizards.
The kent sites I could also more or less guarentee seeing no other people whereas there has been a huge increase in 'dog walkers' certainly plenty of these at the surry sites and I was wondering if this might be a reason that there were no adders basking on paths but that can't be the whole story.
wonder if there is any data on change in numbers of snakes in different parts of the country and whether my impression is correct or not.



anonymous spotter's picture

The painstaking work -

of a volunteer worker in Wyre Forest (Worcestershire) has clearly shown the serious decline in adders that area. This has finally been accepted, but the sad truth is that adders suffer from conservation measures designed to promote more "important" species. They also find it hard to live with disturbance, and improved access for walkers, cyclists, and horse riders is a significant factor.
Grass snakes have suffered from loss of two habitats - wetlands where they can hunt amphibians, and old fashioned manure- and compost heaps where they can breed.
Snakes cause real fear in many people, even folk sympathetic to nature (witness the letters of horrified protest to the Wildlife Trusts' in-house magazine when adders featured in an article), and sadly loose out as a result when funding is tight: projects that encourage rare butterflies, flowering plants, birds and small mammals will always win out.
Finally - for this rant - a countryside ranger reported the words of a visitor to a country park in the north-east of England: "oh, and we found a snake. But it's OK, we killed it!"