Dog walkers warned of adder risk as hot and dry weather sees snakes sunbathe in the grass
Dog walkers have been warned that their pets are at risk of being bitten by adders after the hot and dry weather coaxed them out of hibernation to sunbathe in the grass.
The warning was issued after vets in the West Country had to give life-saving emergency treatment to six pet dogs that were bitten by adders in the space of five days.
Hattie Algar, a nurse at Penmellyn Vet Group in Cornwall, said: “Keep your dog on a lead, especially if you’re walking in sand dunes or grassland.
“Keep your eyes to the ground and if you do see any black and white snakes do give them a very wide berth. More adders have been spotted basking in the sun on popular clifftop paths near Kynance Cove on The Lizard peninsula, owned by the National Trust, at the far tip of Cornwall.”
The settled weather since the Easter break has bathed the country in sunshine, although rain is set to gradually make its way south from Scotland from Monday.
Only about a foot to 18 inches long, their venom can put people in hospital though they rarely attack unless they feel threatened or they’re defending their young.
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly coastguards said: “The National Trust rangers out near Kynance Cove and some other local agencies have reported that adders have woken up and have been seen enjoying the sunshine.
“If you think you have been bitten by a snake out on the coast path and need medical assistance call 999 and ask for immediate help. “Telling the doctors the colour and pattern of the snake that bit you could help them treat it.
“Adders are grey or reddish-brown, with a dark zig-zag shaped stripe down their back.”
There are two other species of snake found wild in Britain – the grass snake, which can grow to four or five feet, and the much smaller smooth snake – but they are harmless.
Coastguards said: “Grass snakes are usually green, with dark spots down their sides and yellow and black bands around their neck.
“Smooth snakes are usually grey or brown with a dark pattern. The pattern down their backs are lighter and less zig-zag shaped than on adders.”
Adders love open heaths and grassy banks, and are often found on clifftops and seaside dunes.
The Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Trust say there have been 14 recorded human deaths from adder bites since 1876.
Between 50 and 100 people are bitten each year, but three in four victims have only a ‘negligible’ reaction.
However the elderly and frail can die without urgent treatment.
Normally adders are shy, and the hustle and bustle of pre-Covid 19 life meant they were rarely seen, slithering away before people saw them.
But the new-found peace in the countryside has made them bolder because there are fewer people about.
They are now emerging from hibernation and the males will be seeking females to mate.
Adders hibernate over winter and emerge in spring – this is when the likelihood of being bitten is highest.
The snakes often bask in the sun and inquisitive dogs that stumble upon them are most often bitten around the face, muzzle and front paws.
Meanwhile, two male adders were pictured twisting and writhing as they battled for the alpha status in the Scottish Highlands.
The age old ritual – where male adders fight other males which stray onto their territory or threaten their female partners – is rarely captured on camera.
But the scene was caught by wildlife photographer Colin Black, 49, earlier this week on the fringe of the Cairngorms National Park.