England, with its diverse and thriving wildlife, is home to a small yet fascinating variety of snakes. These serpents, although often misunderstood, play a significant role in maintaining the delicate balance of our ecosystem. This comprehensive guide offers insights into the world of English snakes, their characteristics, habitats, and ways to handle encounters.
Unravelling the Mystery: Types of English Snakes
Though England is not particularly known for a large variety of snakes, it hosts three native species and one introduced species:
- Adder (Vipera berus): The only venomous snake in the UK, Adders are identifiable by their distinctive zigzag pattern and red eyes.
- Grass Snake (Natrix helvetica): The largest UK snake, Grass Snakes, are harmless to humans. They are often seen near water bodies and have a yellow and black collar around the neck.
- Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca): A rare sight, Smooth Snakes are non-venomous and prefer heathland habitats. They have a slender body and uniform grey-brown colour.
- Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus): Introduced from Central Europe, Aesculapian Snakes are found in specific regions in London and Wales. They are non-venomous and pose no threat to humans.
Identifying English Snakes: Key Features
Understanding the key features of each snake can help distinguish them:
- Adders are distinct with their “V” or “X” shaped markings on the back of the head. They have a stocky body and are usually grey or reddish-brown with a dark zigzag pattern along the body.
- Grass Snakes are greenish with a dark pattern on the sides. They are the only English snakes with an oval-shaped pupil and have a characteristic yellow and black collar.
- Smooth Snakes are not easily distinguishable as they resemble juvenile adders but lack the zigzag pattern. They have a dark heart-shaped mark on the head.
- Aesculapian Snakes are long and slender with a dark olive-brown colour. Their scales have a glossy appearance.
Understanding Their Behaviour
English snakes are primarily elusive, and human encounters are relatively rare. Most snakes hibernate from October to April and are most active during the warmer months. Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, amphibians, and insects.
The Role of English Snakes in the Ecosystem
Each snake contributes to the ecosystem’s balance by controlling pests and serving as prey for larger predators. They help regulate populations of rodents, slugs, and other pests, contributing to biodiversity.
Encountering English Snakes: A Guideline
Although encounters are infrequent, it’s essential to know how to react when you cross paths with a snake:
- Keep a Safe Distance: Avoid touching or provoking the snake. Although only the Adder is venomous, it’s best to maintain a safe distance from all snakes.
- Don’t Panic: Snakes are more scared of you than you are of them. Stay calm, and the snake will most likely retreat.
- Contact Professionals: If a snake is causing concern, contact pest control professionals like us at Bon Accord Pest Control. We can provide advice and safely relocate the snake if needed.
English snakes, though often cloaked in mystery and fear, are a crucial part of England’s rich biodiversity. As we continue to explore and understand these creatures, we appreciate their role in our ecosystem more. By fostering a respectful coexistence, we contribute to a healthier, more balanced environment.