Adders on the Moors
The Eastern Moors is a stronghold for adders, a protected species and Britain’s only venomous snake. The Eastern Moors Partnership, in association with other conservation organisations, monitor the adder populations in the area to better understand how we can protect and enhance their habitat to make sure they continue to successfully breed on the site.
Adders have a ‘V’ or ‘X’ shape on the head, a dark or black zigzag stripe along their back and a row of dark spots along each side. The male’s markings are often black on a grey-white background. The female’s markings are often black on a brown to yellow background. Males can grow to 60cm in length and females up to 75cm.
Adders are secretive, placid and non-aggressive. They are well camouflaged and spend a great deal of their time hidden away. In fact from November to February (weather dependent), they hibernate! If however you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one, please respect it by keeping your distance and do NOT try to pick it up.
People enjoy snapping the perfect shot of an adder, but as a protected species they are vulnerable to disturbance. We ask that if you do take photos of them, you use a long lens to ensure you keep a respectful distance.
When adders are not hibernating they spend some of each warm day sunbathing, soaking up the heat from the sun to gain energy. Adders tend to sunbathe on rocks, tracks or on top of vegetation, usually away from the disturbance of visitors. However, they can be spotted close to busy paths and for this reason it is important to keep your dog close to you.
Adders rarely strike, usually only when they feel significantly threatened, as vital energy stores are depleted when adders restock their supply of venom. There is no cause for alarm if you see an adder. Enjoy the experience of witnessing this stunning and often misunderstood creature in its natural habitat, stand still, or step away slowly and let it move away to a place it feels safe. Adders are protected by law - you must not handle, remove, injure or kill an adder.
Adder bites are very rare, you can however take steps to reduce the risk of a bite in areas where adders are thought to be present.
- Never pick up a snake, even if you think it is harmless or appears dead.
- Never put your hand in a hole or crevice, for example, between rocks.
- If you find yourself very close to a snake, stand still. Most snakes only strike at moving targets. If you remain calm and still the snake will escape without harming you.
- Take care to check around you when sitting down.
- Keep your dog on a lead when adders are out of hibernation, particularly when they first awaken in February and March as they have low energy levels and are less likely to move away from you or your dog.
In the unlikely event of an adder bite the following advice is given.
Remain calm and do not panic.
- Pick up your dog if you can and keep it immobilised (this will reduce the speed the venom travels round the body)
- Call the vets in advance to let them know you are coming.
- Take your dog directly to the vets where they will provide supportive care until the anti-venom arrives.
Dore & Totley veterinary clinic and Bakewell veterinary clinic have access to anti-venom.
Dore & Totley: 0114 2621444. Postcode: S17 4DP.
Bakewell: 01629 812744. Postcode: DE45 1DX.
For a person:
- If possible, sit down and remain calm.
- Remove jewellery or watches from the bitten limb in case of swelling.
- Immobilise the limb if possible, with a sling or splint.
- Ring 999 and ask for an ambulance, or mountain rescue if necessary, dependant on your location.
- Explain that you believe you have been bitten by an adder, which is a venomous snake.
If you choose to be driven to the hospital by car, the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield advises you to call ahead, ask for A&E and explain that you are on your way in with a suspected adder bite: 0114 2434343. Postcode: S5 7AU.
Remember, adders are often misunderstood. They are a non-aggressive snake that will only strike if they feel attacked and trapped. If you treat an adder with respect, you will stay safe and adders will continue to live in harmony with their natural habitat. A win for all involved!