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The Adder (Vipers berus)'

Vipera berus, the common European adder or common European viper, is a venomous viper species that is extremely widespread and can be found throughout most of Western Europe and all the way to Far East Asia.

Description:'

Relatively thick-bodied, adults grow to 60 centimetres (24 in) in length with an average of 55 centimetres (22 in) Maximum size varies per region. The largest, at over 90 centimetres (35 in), are found in Scandinavia; specimens of 104 centimetres (41 in) have been observed there on two occasions. In France and Great Britain, the maximum size is 80–87 centimetres (31–34 in). Mass ranges from 50 grams (1.8 oz) to about 180 grams (6.3 oz)

 

The head is fairly large and distinct, the sides of which are almost flat and vertical. The edge of the snout is usually raised into a low ridge. Seen from above, the rostral scale is not visible, or only just. Immediately behind the rostral, there are 2 (rarely 1) small scales. Dorsally, there are usually 5 large plates: a squarish frontal (longer than wide, sometimes rectangular), 2 parietals (sometimes with a tiny scale between the frontal and the parietals), and 2 long and narrow supraoculars. The latter are large and distinct, each separated from the frontal by 1-4 small scales. The nostril is situated in a shallow depression within a large nasal scale. The eye is relatively large—equal in size or slightly larger than the nasal scale—but often smaller in females. Below the supraoculars there are 6-13 (usually 8-10) small circumorbital scales. The temporal scales are smooth (rarely weakly keeled). There are 10-12 sublabials and 6-10 (usually 8-9) supralabials. Of the latter, the numbers 3 and 4 are the largest, while 4 and 5 (rarely 3 and 4) are separated from the eye by a single row of small scales (sometimes two rows in alpine specimens). Midbody there are 21 dorsal scales rows (rarely 19, 20, 22, or 23). These are strongly keeled scales, except for those bordering the ventral scales. These scales seem loosely attached to the skin and lower rows become increasingly wide; those closest to the ventral scales are twice as wide as the ones along the midline. The ventral scales number 132-150 in males and 132-158 in females. The anal plate is single. The subcaudals are paired, numbering 32-46 in males and 23-38 in females. The color pattern varies, ranging from very light-colored specimens with small incomplete dark dorsal crossbars to entirely brown ones with faint or clear darker brown markings, and on to melanistic individuals that are entirely dark and lack any apparent dorsal pattern. However, most have some kind of zigzag dorsal pattern down the entire length of the body and tail. The head usually has a distinctive dark V or X on the back. A dark streak runs from the eye to the neck and continues as a longitudinal series of spots along the flanks. Unusual for snakes, the sexes are possible to tell apart by the colour. Females are usually brownish in hue with dark-brown markings, the males are pure grey with black markings. The basal colour of males will often be a tad lighter than that of the females, making the black zigzag pattern stand out. The melanistic individuals are often females.

Conservation Status:'

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to kill, injure, harm, or sell adders under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. The common viper is categorised as "endangered" in Switzerland, and is also protected in some other countries in its range. It is also found in many protected areas. This species is listed as protected (Appendix III) under the Berne Convention. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species describes the conservation status as of "least concern" in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, broad range of habitats, and likely slow rate of decline though it acknowledges the population to be decreasing.Reduction in habitat for a variety of reasons, fragmentation of populations in Europe due to intense agriculture practices, and collection for the pet trade or for venom extraction have been recorded as major contributing factors for its decline.

Habitat:'

Sufficient habitat complexity is a crucial requirement for the presence of this species, in order to support their various behaviors—basking, foraging, and hibernation—as well as to offer some protection from predators and human harassment. It is found in variety of habitats, including: chalky downs, rocky hillsides, moors, sandy heaths, meadows, rough commons, edges of woods, sunny glades and clearings, bushy slopes and hedgerows, dumps, coastal dunes, and stone quarries. They will venture into wetlands if dry ground is available nearby. Therefore, they may be found on the banks of streams, lakes, and ponds.

In much of southern Europe, such as southern France, Southern England and northern Italy, it is found in either low lying wetlands or at high altitudes. In the Swiss Alps, it may ascend to about 3,000 m (9,842 ft). In Hungary and Russia, it avoids open steppeland; a habitat in which V. ursinii is more likely to occur. In Russia, however, it does occur in the forest steppe zone.

Behaviour:'

This species is mainly diurnal, especially in the north of its range. Further south it is said to be active in the evening, and it may even be active at night during the summer months. It is predominantly a terrestrial species, although it has been known to climb up banks and into low bushes in order to bask or search for prey.

Adders are not usually aggressive, tending to be rather timid and biting only when cornered or alarmed. People are generally only bitten after stepping on them or attempting to pick them up. They will usually disappear into the undergrowth at a hint of any danger, but will return once all is quiet, often to the same spot. Occasionally, individual snakes will reveal their presence with a loud and sustained hissing, hoping to warn off potential aggressors. Often, these turn out to be pregnant females. When threatened, the front part of the body is drawn into an S-shape to prepare for a strike. The species is cold-adapted and hibernates in the winter. In Great Britain, males and females hibernate for about 150 and 180 days respectively. In northern Sweden hibernation lasts 8–9 months. On mild winter days, they may emerge to bask where the snow has melted and will often travel across snow. About 15% of adults and 30-40% of juveniles die during hibernation.

Diet:'

Diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as mice, voles, and shrews, as well as lizards. Sometimes, slow worms are taken, and even weasels and moles. They feed on amphibians, such as frogs, newts, and salamanders. Birds are also reported to be on the menu, especially nestlings and even eggs, for which they will climb into shrubbery and bushes. Generally, diet varies depending on locality. Juveniles will eat nestling mammals, small lizards and frogs as well as worms and spiders. Once they reach about 30 cm (1 ft) in length, their diet begins to resemble that of the adults.

Mating/Reproduction:'

In Britain, mating takes place in the last week of April, while in the north it happens later in the second week of May. Matings have also been observed in June and even early October, but it is not known if the autumn matings result in any young. Females often breed once every two years, or even once every three years if the seasons are short and the climate is severe.

V. berus - showing strongly keeled scales on dorsal area. Males find females by following their scent trails, sometimes tracking them for hundreds of meters a day. If a female is found and flees, the male follows. Courtship involves side-by-side parallel "flowing" behavior, tongue flicking along the back and excited lashing of the tail. Pairs stay together for one or two days after mating. Males chase away their rivals and engage in combat. Often, this also starts with the aforementioned flowing behavior before culminating in the dramatic "adder dance." In this act, the males confront each other, raise up the front part of the body vertically, make swaying movements and attempt to push each other to the ground. This is repeated until one of the two becomes exhausted and crawls off to find another mate. Interestingly, Appleby (1971) notes that he has never seen an intruder win one of these contests, as if the frustrated defender is so aroused by courtship that he refuses to lose his chance to mate. There are no records of any biting taking place during these bouts. Females usually give birth in August–September, but sometimes as early as July, or as late as early October. Litters range in size from 3 to 20. The young are usually born encased in a transparent sac from which they must free themselves. Sometimes, they succeed in freeing themselves from this membrane while still inside the female. The neonates, measuring 14 to 23 cm (average of 17 cm; 7 in), are born with a fully functional venom apparatus and a reserve supply of yolk within their bodies. They shed their skins for the first time within a day or two. Females do not appear to take much interest in their offspring, but the young have been observed to remain near their mothers for several days after birth.

Venom!:'

Although Adders are poisonous there have been only 12 reported deaths in UK and these were all due to allergic reactions to the venom. Adders do have quite potent venom but they don`t inject enough to do serious harm. Where ever they bit you will swell up and you might get a fever but you won`t usually die. Juvinille Adders can`t controlle how much venom they relese so there the most likley to be the one`s to kill you...

Where you might see them in the Uk:'

In Britain Adders are usually seen in the spring months, basking. They accour on bog lands, heathlands, Moorlands and commons.

 

The Grass snake (Natrix natrix)'

The grass snake (Natrix natrix), sometimes called the ringed snake or water snake is a European non-venomous snake. It is often found near water and feeds almost exclusively on amphibians.

Description:'

The grass snake is typically dark green or brown in colour with a characteristic yellow collar behind the head, which explains the alternative name ringed snake. The colour may also range from grey to black, with darker colours being more prevalent in colder regions, presumably owing to the thermal benefits of being dark in colour. The underside is whitish with irregular blocks of black, which are useful in recognizing individuals. In Great Britain the grass snake is the largest reptile, reaching up to 190 centimetres (6 ft 3 in) total length, though such large specimens are rare. Females are considerably larger than males, typically reaching a size of 90–110 centimetres (2 ft 11 in–3 ft 7 in) when fully grown. Males are approximately 20 centimetres (8 in) shorter and significantly smaller in girth. Weight is about 240 grams (8 oz). Since the colour of its collar is often pale yellow to white in the Balkans region, the name for this snake in Serbian/Croatian language is belouška/bjelouška, which means white eared snake.

Distribution:'

This species is one of only three snakes to occur in Great Britain, and is distributed throughout lowland areas of England and Wales; it is almost absent from Scotland and is not found in Ireland, which has no native snakes. It is widely distributed in mainland Europe, ranging from mid Scandinavia to southern Italy. It is also found in northwestern Africa. British grass snakes belong to the subspecies N. n. helvetica, but experts differ on the number of subspecies.

Diet:'

They prey almost entirely on amphibians, especially the common toad and the common frog, although they may also occasionally eat mammals and fish. Captive snakes have been observed taking earthworms offered by hand, but dead prey items are never taken. The snake will search actively for prey, often on the edges of water, using sight and sense of smell (using the Jacobson's organ). They consume prey live without using constriction.

Habitat'

Grass snakes are strong swimmers and may be found close to fresh water, although there is evidence that individual snakes often do not make use of water bodies throughout the entire season.

The preferred habitat appears to be open woodland and "edge" habitat such as field margins and woodland borders as these may offer adequate refuge while still affording ample opportunity for thermoregulation through basking. Pond edges are also favoured and the relatively high chance of observing this secretive species in such areas may account for their perceived association with ponds and water.

Grass snakes, as with most reptiles, are at the mercy of the thermal environment and need to overwinter in areas which are not subject to freezing. Thus they typically spend the winter underground where the temperature is relatively stable.

Reproduction:'

As spring approaches, the males emerge first and spend much of the day basking in an effort to raise body temperature and thereby metabolism. temperature and thereby metabolism. This may be a tactic to maximise sperm production as the males mate with the females as soon as they emerge up to 2 weeks later in April or earlier if environmental temperatures are favourable. The leathery-skinned eggs are laid in batches of 8–40 in June to July and hatch after about 10 weeks. To survive and hatch the eggs require a temperature of at least21 °C(70 °F), but preferably 28 °C (82 °F), with high humidity. Rotting vegetation such as compost heaps are preferred locations. The young are about 18 centimetres (7 in) long when they hatch and are immediately independent.

Ecdysis(shedding skin)'

Ecdysis occurs at least once during the active season. As the outer skin wears and the snake grows, the skin loosens from the body, including from the eyes, which may turn a milky white colour at this time. This presumably affects the eyesight of the snake and they do not move or hunt during this time. The outer skin is eventually sloughed in one piece (inside-out) and normal movement activity is resumed.

Defence:'

Not being venomous, the snake's only defence is to produce a garlic-smelling fluid from the anal glands, or to feign death (thanatosis) by becoming completely limp. They may also perform an aggressive display in defence, hissing and striking without actually opening the mouth. They rarely bite in defence. They may also secrete blood (autohaemorrhage) from the mouth and nose whilst playing dead.

Where you might find them in the UK'

Grass snakes are found near water. Great places to look would places like ponds, swamps bogs etc. They will also need a place to shelter after they`ve warmed up. Places like woodlands would be great. And in the early spring you will find females laying there eggs in compost heaps. This will be the best time to see them in your gardens if you have an open compost heap.

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)'

 

Description'

Both sexes grow to an average length of about 50 cm (19.7 in). Two specimens measuring 83 cm (32.7 in) have been recorded in Sweden, as well as one in Ukraine near Chernobyl that was 92 cm (36.2 in).

The head has a rostral scale that is at least as deep as it is wide, creating a triangular indentation between the internasals (rarely separating them). The top of the head is covered with 9 large plates. The nasal scale is often divided. There is 1 (rarely 2) preoculars and 2 postoculars. The temporals number 2+2 (rarely 1+2) or 2+3. There are 7 (rarely 8) upper labials, of which the 3rd and 4th or 4th and 5th border the eye.

Midbody there are 19 (rarely 17 or 21) rows of smooth dorsal scales. The ventrals number 150-164 in male4s and 162-200 in females. The anal scale is divided (rarely single) and the subcaudals paired. Males have 54-70 subcaudals and females 40-76.

The color pattern consists of a brown, gray of reddish ground color with two rows of small, rather indistinct dark spots running down the back towards the tail. In some cases, each pair of spots may be united towards the neck area, forming a series of cross-bars over the back. There is also a very indistinct series of dark spots running along each of the flanks. These four series of spots that run the length of the body overlay four parallel, rather shadowy stripes that also run down the back and flanks.

Dorsally, the head has a somewhat heart-shaped marking that resembles an inverted V posteriorly. This shape is where the name Coronella comes from, which means coronet (a small crown). A relatively thick dark stripe extends from the nostril along the side of the head to a little beyond the neck, only being interrupted by the eye. The upper labials are whitish, grayish-white or light brown, sometimes with darker spots. The tongue is reddish brown or dark red.

Behaviour & Diet'

This Diurnal Snake is often seen around large piles of wood or scrap metal where it will bask. Lizards often bask here also, and rodents make their homes among them - both of which are noted to be preted upon by the Smooth Snake. This snake will also eat alot other animals. Such as slow worms(a legless lizard), Frogs, toads even babie adders and to the extreme conditions they will even eat there own young

Breeding'

Breeding occurs in Spring with young being born in Autumn, this species may only breed once every two years if conditions are unsuitable. They are viviparous and give birth to as many as 10-15 young at a time, these will feed on the young of Lizards after being born.

Where you might find them in UK'

These reptiles are really rare. And are sqeezed into small pckets in the south of England. Such as Dorset, and they`ve recently been introduced into Devon and a few other lucky pockets. There they will be found under or on corigeted iron, Or basking in the spring on south facing areas. They will also be found sheltering from bad wheather under Gorse bushes.