A world without adders

Flanders Moss NNR

The adders on Flanders will be enjoying this recent spell of fine weather. They are out of hibernation now and need good spells of sun to bask in. The fact that they can do this with minimal disturbance at Flanders at the moment is really good for them. Everytime an adder is disturbed, by walkers or photographers most often, they use up valuable energy and miss vital basking opportunities.

In fact a recent paper in the the Herpotological Journal here that looks at data from the Make Adders Count citizen science survey and historical data showed that adder populations across the country are plummeting with a 40% range reduction. Numbers are dropping and in small isolated populations this is meaning that they are disappearing from large parts of the UK. As adders don’t travel well, if they become extinct somewhere they are unlikely to recolonise.

The reasons for these extinctions are down to a mixture of changes in habitat and disturbance from human activities. At Flanders the adders close to the boardwalk and car park do get disturbed a bit but as most of the site is inaccessible the human impact is lessened. But the state of Flanders is changing across the whole of the site. The huge increase in red deer has changed the state of the vegetation – it is now much more trampled and eaten. This isn’t good for adders as they need lots of variety such as open sunny patches but will solid cover nearby. This allows them to moved to between shade and sun to fine tune their body temperature and also give them hiding places from predators. The concern at Flanders is that the high deer population is make this stronghold for adders less favourable.

Whenever we put up pictures of adders on our social media there is always gets a strong reaction – some people love it and others very much don’t. It seems to be the venomous snake thing but adders cause so few problems – there have only been 10 reported adder deaths in the last 100 years and none in the last 45 years – that it seems to be just the thought of something venomous and snakey out there in the wilds. But for me that is what makes adders so special. They are so beautiful to see and exciting as well, any day you see an adder is a special day. Also you often see them on days of lovely weather and in striking places so in a landscape where man has already removed nearly all of the inconveniently hazardous wildlife like wolves, bears and wild boar a world with out adders would be a terribly sad place to be.

If you have records of adders you can report them here or want to take part in adders surveys at a time when we can revisit the countryside then you can sign up to them here.

All photos taken on Flanders Moss using long lens and without disturbing the snakes.

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