Little Snake

Okay I know that I am on dodgy ground here. Many people hate snakes with very good reason.

This post is in response to one that my good friend John Suchled wrote on his blog “Scattered Words.” He wrote about the need to keep the yard tidy and about Tiger Snakes. John lives in Australia.

In many parts of the world snakes can and do kill people. If you live in such a place you might think that it would be nice to live in Ireland (no snakes) or New Zealand (no snakes). I like living in England. We have three snakes and they are not dangerous and that is better than no snakes at all in my book.

In England we can enjoy and love our snakes.

We have a Smooth Β Snake but I don’t have pictures of this one. The Smooth Snake is extremely rare and it’s distribution is limited to a few select parts of the country. It is non-venomous and you will be very lucky to see one.

The Grass Snake is another non-venomous one.

Grass SnakeI am told that it is often confused with the Adder, presumably because it is snake shaped, it doesn’t look anything like an Adder. The general appearance is of a long thin grey snake. It has a distinctive yellow collar and the pupils of it’s eyes are round.

Grass SnakeThen there is my favourite the Adder.

AdderThe Adder is a Viper and it is venomous. There have been fifteen recorded deaths in the UK from the last 150 years. Pussy Cats are more dangerous than Adders. The last death from an Adder bite was recorded nearly forty years ago. The bite is painful and the effects in an adult can last for several months, children recover quicker for some reason. Herpetologists refer to being bitten as being “tagged,” an occupational hazard. A bite is very rarely fatal but you should seek medical attention. The most common treatment is to observe you for two hours and then send you home. There are anti-venoms but they are only administered in extreme cases.

Often the snake will not envenomate. It bites without injecting venom because venom is a limited resource.

This is not a dangerous animal. The one thing that you should never, ever do is to TRY TO PICK IT UP.

The most common reason that people are bitten is because they tried to handle the animal. There was a case here in August that made the news, a man was seriously bitten three times by an Adder that he had picked up.

I don’t know why anyone would do that, possibly if you had mental health issues and saw something bright and sparkly in the grass…

This post is about the day that I tried to pick up an Adder.

I wasn’t exactly unaware, in fact I had been living with these snakes for several years, I had researched them and thought that I knew them well. I just had one more important lesson to learn.

I had bought a piece of woodland in East Sussex and the reason that I chose that patch was because on my first viewing I saw two Adders in a clearing in the wood. I had never seen an Adder before. They were exotic and beautiful, like something out of the jungle. They were also the reason that I bought my first camera.

About 120 acres of woodland had been split into smaller plots and sold to private owners as amenity woodland. It was a little piece of paradise. Almost as soon as we moved in we were contacted by local foresters who wanted the Oak. Playing on the naivete of the new owners, experts assured us that proper woodland management entailed the removal of the Oak that until now they hadn’t been able to touch.

It was an obvious scam. The Forestry Commission were handing out grants for the restoration of the Sweet Chestnut Coppice. There was no restoration being done. A coppice is not a place it is a way of life, it requires regular cutting over a period of many years and it is not profitable do continue doing this. With a grant for the restoration and with the Oak contained within the forest it became profitable to go in and do it but once only, there would be no grants or Oak next time.

Oak

Oak

OakCol, why don’t you love and respect the Forestry Commission?

We have history.

My little bit of paradise was destroyed, well everything around it anyway.

The biggest threat to our Adder population is Human disturbance and as the extraction and processing of the Oak increased my snakes started to disappear.

A few years into my ownership snakes had become thin on the ground. There is a particularly good time to look for Adders, the two weeks either side of May Day, this is their breeding season and they are focused on the task and much less wary of Humans. Some people say that this is the only time that you will see them.

I had been searching the land for several hours without success when walking back along a path that I had only just come along I spotted a little baby Adder.

AdderSadly it was dead. It lay there completely motionless. A spider crawled over it. I was absolutely gutted that the only snake that I had been able to find was a dead baby.

I didn’t feel comfortable photographing it, hardly a triumph, it felt a bit disrespectful.

Adder(remember that I told you that Grass Snakes have round pupils)

Somewhere in my fuddled brain a thought was forming and I swear it was unconscious, I was just wondering what had killed it, I couldn’t see any marks.

AdderWithout thinking I did the most stupid thing.


Okay it wouldn’t have killed me but even the little ones have venom.

What made me so mad with myself was that I knew, other people may be seeing a snake for the first time but it was already embedded in me not to approach them or cause them stress and never to pick one up.

But this one was dead. Lesson learned.

Here is Fizz demonstrating what she will do the next time that I am attacked by a snake.

Fizz

FizzNo you will not. When we meet a snake I shall pick you up and carry you to a place of safety.

If you live in the UK and you are lucky enough to come across one of our native snakes then you are seeing something wild and beautiful. Don’t approach it and don’t cause it stress. Take a photograph so that you can remember that special moment and let it go on it’s way.

Adder

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41 thoughts on “Little Snake”

  1. I have seen both those snakes in norway, but they are not so rare there. There are adders everywhere where I live. And the other one as well, the one without venom, we call it stΓ₯lorm. But I have seen many many dangerous snakes in india!! We had a cobra in the parking lot where i lived in chennai, and i saw many other snakes hiding in the flower beds. It is scary but interesting as well. I always felt that if a snake entered into the house I will throw a blanket over it to blind it, I think they stop moving then. Then I would call a snake man, we have them in india, and he would come and take it into the forest.

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    1. Thanks Trini πŸ™‚ Part of me would love to travel and see these dangerous animals and learn how to live with them. Part of me is just glad that it is something that I don’t have to worry about. We have enough problems here with woods full of Goblins and Trolls πŸ™‚

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      1. Hihihihi πŸ™‚ Yes, be careful about the goblins!! You never know what kind of traps they will trick you into πŸ™‚ I like trolls better πŸ™‚

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  2. Colin, Thank you so much. I too think that snakes are a very beautiful animal. But I am quite scared of them because ALL the ones I have anything to do with are either Tiger snakes or Brown snakes. Both are deadly. The brown can be more aggressive than the tiger.I could go on and on but I won’t.You said that they were your reason for buying your first camera. Your photos are the reason I am going to but a much better one than I now have.

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    1. Thanks John πŸ™‚ I completely understand your fears. I can not really see how you cope with having wild animals in the yard that could easily kill you. How do you let your children play or your pets run? I suppose that you find a way to live with it but I am a worrier. I would keep my kids indoors at all times and have a budgie for a pet. Things are very different in the UK and we are quite lucky πŸ™‚

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      1. Actually cats are so clever they don’t seem to be affected. Children often stay in the house voluntarily during the summer, (Unless they live in town and most Australian kids have never seen a snake) As for me I get very careful, make a lot of noise and wear big gumboots if I have to walk through a paddock of long grass. Also the first one you see is often the only one you see.

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  3. Hmm…… well we have quite a few venomous snakes in HK. And pythons (not the Monty variety). Our next door neighbour found a Bamboo Pit Viper in his bathroom. Another had a Chinese Cobra wrapped round his umbrella stand (as one does). But they are usually quick to slink away. The only one I have seen in front of our house is a non-venomous Rat Snake. They are welcome to all the rats they can eat. Adders are excellent. I used to see them at Arne occasionally. But I would not pick one up. You’d have to be well…..daft?

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  4. Like John, I am scared of snakes (having accidentally stepped on one baby tiger snake as a very small child and being totally panic stricken).

    I believe we have 9 of the 10 most deadly snakes in the world in Australia and I have certainly seen and been close to 2 of them. I have also sat on a dead tree trunk next to a red-back spider, male (not deadly) or the female (deadly) I don’t know, but my brother told me to sit perfectly still while he dealt with it. Afterwards I made the mistake of sitting back on the tree trunk and he pulled me off saying “where there’s one, there’s always its partner”.

    While I firmly believe we should leave insects, reptiles, birds and wild animals well alone as we are in their territory (not the reverse), I can’t help feeling fear.

    Anyone who deliberately picks any snake up out of curiosity, deserves to be bitten. In general, if you don’t confront little critters in the wild, they will crawl back into the undergrowth and not be bothered or deeply disturbed. The natural environment is their world and modern man should respect their rights.

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    1. I completely agree Vicki πŸ™‚ Any wild animal will bite if you try to corner it or trap it or handle it because it is very afraid. You should not push an animal that far and if you deliberately choose to do that then you should be aware that the animal has defences and you should carry plasters.

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    1. Well said Marc πŸ™‚ Many parts of the world indeed. Here in the forest many people are afraid of the Wild Boar although there are no reported attacks on Humans in the last 150 years. In the same period the local villagers have been robbing and murdering each other like lunatics (statistically speaking). I feel much safer in the forest at night than visiting the local post office or walking down the high street πŸ™‚ People are just crazy. (and this is a nice part of England)

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  5. Come see me in Louisiana. I could probably move a flower pot on the patio and find you a snake. I loved that only people with mental health issues would try to pick up a snake and then you went on to relate your experience. I just love Fizz. He needs to play with my little dog, Buzzy.

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    1. Thank you very much Ibeth πŸ™‚ I just clicked on your blog to try and find a picture of Buzzy and I find that you have written loads of stuff that I haven’t even seen. I was sure that I was following you. I will fix that and now I have a bit of reading to do πŸ™‚

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  6. Dang! You just made me spit coffee all over my monitor. …presumably because it is snake shaped…” People here kill garter snakes because they “look like a copperhead.”

    Your adder is beautiful. You were lucky to get a shot when he was in the grass – I bet he would be almost invisible in a pile of dry leaves.

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  7. You learned your lesson and I’m glad you’ve already told Fizz that she won’t be getting hold of a snake herself. We have lots of snakes here, several poisonous ones but those mostly stay in mountainous areas. We get garter snakes in the yard sometimes, harmless little striped streamers in the grass. Your respect for the natural order of things is commendable; if only more people could think the way you do.

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  8. Loved hearing of your snake experiences! Here in the Northeast of the U.S. I’m always delighted to come across snakes in the garden or woods–mostly garter, rat, water, and milk snakes. We do have the venomous copper head and timber rattler, but they’re very elusive. Can’t say I’d be thrilled to garden in a country with 9 venomous snakes. Just one small point, contrary to popular belief, Ireland does have the odd grass snake. And now I hear that many of the exotic snakes bought as pets during the Celtic Tiger years have been released into the wild causing major headaches. Happy trails!

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  9. My family picked up snakes as a part of our family heritage,lol. My father taught us the different types and how to avoid the poisonous ones (southeast USA at the time). My mother was never very keen about this whole snake handling hobby, so she had a rule: no snakes allowed in the house! But of course, since they came inside all the time on their own, if you got busted with a snake in your hands, you could always claim “Buuut I just found it here! Reeally!”
    Great post, a fave for me.

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    1. Thanks Emilio πŸ™‚ My writing gets worse by the day. I do appreciate what you are saying. It is a common mistake that I make to assume a shared knowledge that doesn’t exist and so misunderstandings occur πŸ™‚ I reached out for the dead snake to pick it up and look for bite marks or some kind of reason to explain it’s death and it fled from me. It didn’t try to bite me. They say never pick up a dead snake and the reason for that is just that some of the dead ones are not as dead as they look πŸ™‚

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      1. BTW I thought that your Hawk in flight photographs were spectacular. Coming a day or so after I had failed to catch one tiny Sparrowhawk. Brilliant stuff πŸ™‚

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  10. I have never seen an adder though there are many on the local heaths, I hear. We do have grass snakes in our garden and they are beautiful. Some are very long indeed and some look more green than grey. They are very good swimmers. My husband is very frightened of snakes and I think that it is a phobia rather than just a fear. His mother is the same and the fear also includes anything wiggly like worms which many people find strange. Phobias are strange.

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    1. Thanks Clare πŸ™‚ Phobias fascinate me because they make sense but how do we know this? In many parts of the world there are really dangerous spiders (Whenever I say “many parts of the world” I usually mean Australia, everything in Australia seems to be trying to kill you) Brits have never seen a dangerous spider or snake but we are born afraid of them. Then there are the anomalies, many Brits are afraid of mice and they are really not very dangerous and yet I have never met a fellow countryman with a phobia for Crocodiles. I don’t think that there is a term for fear of Crocodiles πŸ™‚ There should be.

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      1. When I had cats thirty years ago I was amazed at their behaviour as kittens. They were very wary of snake shaped objects, even though they had never seen a snake before, and would creep round very carefully indeed. I remembered this when I saw your photo of Fizz and the ‘snake’.

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  11. You just can’t help educating us can you. I’m glad of that. I learned a new word “envenomate” that I like very much. It was also interesting to learn that there are only three species of snakes in England. When I was in third grade I had a hognose snake for a pet. A good pet for a kid because it looks kind of mean, hisses, and will play dead. A few years later I had a garter snake – boring. I have no great fear of snakes but since it’s been years since I was a kid playing in the woods I’ve pretty much lost my ability to identify snakes so I give them right away when I do occasionally see one. I would be extremely afraid to go walking about in Australia.

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  12. I’m someone who gives worms a wide berth, so it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY I will ever attempt to get close to any snake … of any size or colour. More than likely I will be running away (screaming) in the opposite direction. Crying might be involved too.

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  13. I like snakes too! Probably not as much as you do. . . but I do like them a lot! When I taught fifth grade, most of the students were fascinated by snakes. What happened to the oaks is sooo sad.

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  14. Enjoyable read! I like snakes and we have a pretty good variety here. I saved four this year. They have a bad habit of lying on the roads in the late afternoon to catch the last of the sun before night comes. I take them away from the roads far enough so that they will live at least another day. (The rattlesnakes though I don’t move with my hands).

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  15. I think snakes are beautiful. I’m more afraid of bugs than I am of snakes. North Carolina, however, have very venomous snakes: Copperhead and Rattle Snakes are the two we have to look out for in our back yard. Copperheads get in our birdhouses and eat our baby bluebirds. Now that makes me mad! Like you, I don’t dare try picking up any snake. I don’t like them that much! I’m sorry that your little paradise was destroyed. And society wonders why there are so many angry people in the world! We’ve been scammed more than once and it’s no fun! It makes me feel stupid for being so trusting. But I’m learning! Happy Trails!!

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