Monday, 19 March 2012

Spring has sprung! Wildwood’s snakes and reptiles make their first appearance


As winter draws to a close, Wildwood is starting to see the first signs of spring with the appearance of our hibernating snakes and reptiles.

Wildwood's adders, grass snakes and green lizards are beginning to wake up from their long winter sleep and have been spotted basking in their enclosures.

The park's, frogs and pond tortoises are expected to be waking up soon too as the weather improves.

"It's an exciting time", said Anne Riddell, head of Education at Wildwood "Hibernation can be a dangerous time for these animals, but they seem to have come through it very well. They will now spend some time basking before starting to feed."

Visitors to the park will start to see them in their enclosures as the weather gets warmer.

Adders, frogs, green lizards and pond tortoises are just some of the huge range of British animals that can be seen at the Wildwood Discovery Park, for more information visit the website at or telephone 01227 712 111.

Wildwood is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come 'nose to nose' with British Wildlife. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here, like the wolf, beaver, red squirrel, wild boar and many more.


More information at Adders

Adder, common viper

Vipera berus

Adders are the most northerly distributed snake - they are the only species found inside the Arctic circle. They are also Britain's only venomous reptile.


There are four subspecies. Vipera berus berus has the greatest range and is the subspecies found in Britain.


Length: 50-65cm. Females are larger than the males.

Physical Description

Adders are relatively short and robust with large heads and a rounded snout. The red-brown eyes have vertical elliptical, rather then round, pupils - a feature of all venomous snakes. Males are usually a grey or buff colour with vivid black markings, although they can also vary from silver to yellow or green in colour. Females are brown with dark red-brown markings that are less prominent than in the males. Both sexes have a zigzag pattern running along the back with a / or X-shaped marking at the rear of the head, although this zigzag pattern may be replaced by a straight brown stripe with dark spots on either side. Adders have black undersides. Melanistic (black) individuals sometimes occur in mountainous regions.


Adders are widespread throughout mainland Britain, but are absent from Ireland. They occur throughout Europe, with the exception of the Mediterranean islands, and across Russia and Asia through to N. China. They are one of the most widespread species of snake.


Adders occupy a variety of habitats, including open woodland, hedgerows, moorland, sand dunes, riverbanks, bogs, heathland and mountains. They prefer undisturbed countryside and can be found in surprisingly wet habitats throughout the summer months.


Adders use venom to immobilise prey such as lizards, amphibians, nestlings and small mammals. After striking their prey, they will leave the venom to take effect before following the victim's scent to find the body. This is an economical way of hunting, avoiding any damage that could be caused by struggling with prey.


Adders are active during the day, spending time basking until their body temperature is high enough to hunt for food. In some of the hotter countries of their range, they may emerge at dawn and dusk to avoid the intense heat. Mating takes place between April and May, with males often fighting for females. They rear up at each other and try to push the head of their opponent onto the ground. Eventually, one male will give up and search for another mate. Adders hibernate from September to March when temperatures dip below nine degrees Celsius, often using deserted rabbit or rodent burrows, or settling under logs. They sometimes hibernate communally. Males emerge 2-5 weeks before the females and shed their skin before setting off in search of females.


Males follow the females around until she allows them to copulate with her. This takes place in April-May. Adders have a 3 to 4 month gestation period and are one of the few snakes that are viviparous (give birth to live young). In late August females give birth to between 5 and 20 live young, although usually the number is between 6 and 10. The young remain close to their mother for a few days, before going off in search of food. Females do not breed on consecutive years, as they do not have time to build up sufficient fat reserves to produce another set of young from one breeding season to the next.

Conservation status

Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from being killed, injured or sold.


Adders are not aggressive snakes, and will only attack if harassed or threatened. Although an adder's venom poses little danger to a healthy adult human, the bite is very painful and requires urgent medical attention.



Fiona Paterson

Wildwood Trust
Herne Common
Herne Bay

Registered Charity No 1093702
Tel: 01227 712111


Wildwood Trust is Kent's unique 'Woodland Discovery Park', a visitor attraction with a difference.

Wildwood is not only the best place to bring the family for a day out, but it is also a bold and innovative new charity, backed by the UK's leading wildlife conservationists. As a new charity Wildwood needs everyone's support in its mission to save our native and once native wildlife from extinction.

Wildwood Trust's vision is to bring back our true 'wildwood', a unique new way of restoring Britain's land to its natural state. This involves releasing large wild herbivores and developing conservation grazing systems to restore natural ecological processes to help Britain team with wildlife again.

The Wildwood 'Woodland Discovery Park' is an ideal day out for all the family where you can come see British Wildlife past and present. Wildwood offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here.

Set in a sublime 38 acres of Ancient Woodland, Wildwood offers visitors a truly unique experience. Come Nose to Nose with our secretive badgers, experience what it is like to be hunted by a real live pack of wolves, watch a charging wild boar or see a beaver in his lodge.

Wildwood Trust runs a highly successful programme of Conservation Projects - we are the UK's leading experts in rescuing and re-establishing colonies of Britain's most threatened mammal, the water vole. Wildwood Trust has pioneered the use of ancient wild horses to restore nature reserve. Wildwood Trust has been at the forefront of efforts to re-establish the European Beaver back in Britain where they belong. European Beaver have been proven to help manage water ways to bring back a huge range of plants, insects and animals.

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