This article has been written in response to comments in a recent John Light column. It has been written by Dr Angela Julian, coordinator of Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK and Jennifer Gilbert, Back from the Brink Cotswolds community engagement officer.
We are responding to recent concerns about adders in the Cotswolds.
Already extinct in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, the adder is declining rapidly across Britain.
Even in Gloucestershire adders are declining, and many people will go a lifetime not seeing one.
As such, they are considered to be in desperate need of conservation action.
A major reason for this is loss and fragmentation of their habitat.
As roads and development spread across Britain’s green spaces, there are fewer undisturbed spots for our native creatures.
Adders also have a number of predators, including crows, ravens and birds of prey, such as buzzards.
Even pheasants are a threat, attacking the snakes as they bask in the sunshine.
Ironically, one of the biggest threats to our native adder is people.
The systematic and thoughtless killing of adders over hundreds of years has decimated their numbers.
Even today, although adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and it is illegal to kill or injure them, we still receive reports of this type of mindless cruelty.
The main reason given for this fear is that the adder is venomous.
However, far from being aggressive, it is actually a timid and secretive animal.
The venom produced is designed to subdue the small rodents they prey on, not to attack people, dogs or any other large mammal.
Unfortunately, occasionally people and dogs do inadvertently stumble across them and can receive a painful bite, requiring medical attention.
We therefore recommend that you do not touch or try to pick an adder up, and keep your dog under close control on known adder sites.
The Back from the Brink project Limestone’s Living Legacies, aims to redress the worrying declines we are seeing in our local biodiversity, including our adders.
By working with local conservation partners including Natural England and Gloucestershire Amphibian & Reptile Group (GlosARG), we aim to help save our threatened species through a major conservation and outreach programme across the Cotswolds.
To learn more about adders and how you can help conserve them, visit arguk.org
For Back from the Brink visit naturebftb.co.uk