We found an adder yesterday – or rather Seth nearly trod on it. He came running over the heather shouting loudly that he’d seen a snake. We went back to have a look and sure enough, there was a large, beautiful, female adder. She didn’t seem particularly alarmed to see us and slithered slowly over the rocks and heather for a few minutes before disappearing down a hole.
The adder is the UK’s only poisonous snake. They don’t usually bite people and although their bites are painful they are rarely fatal – in fact only about 10 people are recorded as having died from an adder bite in the last 100 years. They are shy creatures and will usually only bite if they feel threatened by someone treading on them or picking them up.
Male adders are silvery-grey whilst females are copper or brown and both have a distinctive black zig-zag pattern along their backs. They live in woodland, grassland and heathland and they like basking in the sun (don’t we all 😀). They hibernate from October to March in sheltered dry spots such as old burrows or in fallen trees. Most snakes lay eggs but adders incubate the eggs internally and give birth to up to 20 live young in late summer. They eat small mammals such as vole, mice and lizards, also frogs and small birds.
This was only the second time I had ever seen an adder. The first time I saw one was up near the top of the Cheviot in Northumberland many years ago at a similar time of year. That one was smaller than today’s, but it raised its body off the ground, waved its head around and hissed loudly at me as I stopped to look at it. Today’s adder was much more amenable and allowed me to get close enough for a good photo.