Discover Britain's three snakes

Discover Britain's three snakes


Posted 10th May 2018


We find out about the three different snakes you can expect to see in Britain

The Adder


Image courtesy of Tom Marshall

A relatively small, stocky snake, the Adder prefers woodland, heathland and moorland. Hunting lizards and small mammals, as well as ground-nesting birds such as Skylark and Meadow Pipit, Adders hibernate from October before emerging in the first warm days of March. This will subsequently be the easiest time of year to spot them, as they will be basking on a log or under a warm rock.

You can identify an Adder by their grey or reddish-brown colour, along with a darker, distinct zig-zag pattern going along their backs. Black forms are also spotted sometimes. Males are silver-grey, while females are brown.

You can expect to see them in most places, except for the Scottish Islands, the Isles of Scilly, the Channel Islands, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

They were once quite common but have suffered serious declines due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat, along with persecution.

Grass Snake


Image courtesy of David Chamberlain

The Grass Snake is our largest snake. Particularly liking wetland habitats, they can be found in dry grasslands and gardens, particularly when there's a pond nearby. They lay eggs in rotting vegetation, generally in compost heaps. Like all reptiles, Grass Snakes hibernate, usually from October to April. During the summer, they will be found basking near their favourite ponds, or even swimming.

Usually greenish in colour, they have a yellow collar and black neck patches. Females are bigger than males, and will often be found near water, as they frequently swim.

Widespread in England and Wales, Grass Snakes are not found in Scotland or Northern Ireland. They're also absent from the Isles of Scilly and the majority of the Channel Islands.

Smooth Snake

This rare snake is only found in a few locations, often alongside other rare reptiles such as the sand lizard, as they favour the same sandy heathland habitats. Cold-blooded, Smooth Snakes will bask in the sun during the day before hibernating between October and April, where they would struggle to be warm enough to move around.

Similar to the Adder, you can distinguish a Smooth Snake by its more slender body, round pupil, and the less well-formed dark pattern on its back. It will usually be grey or dark brown in colour.

Very rare, they're confined to sandy heaths in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, while there are also reintroduced populations in West Sussex and Devon. Restricted to sandy and dry heaths, Smooth Snakes are an extremely rare sight in Britain - they inhabit sandy and dry heaths, a habitat which is suffering serious decline and is under threat from human activity.

Lead image courtesy of David Longshaw / text and information courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts





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