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The warming UV rays of the early Spring sunshine is the trigger for much of our wild flora and fauna to explode into colour. But it's also the alarm clock for one of our most endangered reptiles to emerge from their winter hibernation.

The adder, Britain's only venomous snake will re appear and be seen basking in the sun on open moorland, coastal paths and woodland edges in late March / early April as they move away from the heather to get full exposure to the sun to begin breeding and hunting.

They have good camouflage so they might not be seen until the last moment. Don't panic! They are timid creatures and more likely to slither away on hearing your footsteps. But being cold blooded, they need the sun's energy to create body warmth and will remain sluggish until fully recharged.


Male adders usually have silvery-grey colouration, while females can be copper or brown. Both have a distinctive, black zig-zag pattern along their backs. Fully black adders can be seen in some areas too.

Once fully grown, adders usually measure between 60 and 80cm in length. Young are almost perfect replicas of adults and measure around 17cm in length at birth.

If you're lucky enough to encounter an adder in the wild then stand back, admire the beauty of this precious reptile and either wait for it to move on or give it a wide berth. If you choose to plough on through its domain then you are inviting the adder to defend itself. It may rear up, hiss and worse case scenario and only in extreme cases, it may bite you or your pet.

The majority of adder bites will result in local pain and swelling but in extreme cases symptoms will include nausea, vomiting, extreme redness and pain, confusion and dizziness.


DO remain calm and don't panic – snake bites, particularly those that occur in the UK, usually aren't serious and are only very rarely deadly

DO try to remember the shape, size and colour of the snake

DO keep the part of your body that's been bitten as still as possible to prevent the venom spreading around your body

DO remove jewellery and watches from the bitten limb as they could cut into your skin if the limb swells

DO seek immediate medical attention.

DO NOT attempt to remove any clothing, but loosen clothing if possible

DO NOT try to suck the venom out of the bite

DO NOT try to cut the venom out of the bite or make it bleed

DO NOT rub anything into the wound or apply ice, heat or chemicals

DO NOT leave someone who's been bitten on their own

DO NOT put anything around the bitten limb to stop the spread of venom (such as a tight pressure band, tourniquet or ligature) as it won't help, and can cause swelling or make it worse; it could also damage the limb, leading to the need for amputation

DO NOT try to catch or kill the snake.

Dial 999 immediately after being bitten by a snake to ask for an ambulance, or go straight to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

You should give healthcare professionals a description of the snake to help identify it.

You may be admitted to hospital so the bite can be assessed and your condition closely monitored.


Adders are now considered an endangered species in Britain due to disturbance and loss of habitat. We must allow this secretive, shy and beautiful reptile of ours space to thrive in our dunes, moors and woodlands.

Respect the adder!

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