Adder - the UK's only venomous snake


Adder - the UK's only venomous snake

The adder is the UK's only venomous (poisonous) snake - although their bites are rare, and hardly ever fatal. A relatively small and broad-set snake, the adder is acclimatised to woodland, heathland and moorland habitats. When spotted, it is often when they are basking in the sunshine!

Adders are greyish, with a zig-zag pattern down their backs, and they have a red eye. They prey upon lizards and small mammals; along with birds that nest in the ground - like skylark and meadow pipit. Udders tend to use their venom to immobilise their prey, rather than to attack humans. Human bites only tend to occur when adders are trodden on or touched - otherwise they prefer to take refuge in the undergrowth.

Mating season for the adder is in the spring, when male adders perform a 'dance', and duel with competitors. Female adders incubate their eggs internally (rather than laying shelled eggs), and 6 to 20 young adders are born in August or September. They typically live for 5-10 years, and their main predators include birds such as crows and buzzards.

They hibernate from around October to February. Adders are to be found in much of Britain, and it is easiest to find them in March, when they drowsily begin to emerge, and may be found basking on a log, or under a warm rock.

Further reading

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