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Adder Surveys and Assessments by Experienced Ecologists

Adder Overview


All reptiles are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to intentionally kill or injure a common reptile, including the adder.

Where can you find the adder?

Due to the reduction of moorland in Britain, the adder has suffered somewhat but they remain relatively widespread.  The adder can be found dispersed around mainland Britain and some offshore islands.

Adders are commonly found in areas of large open countryside.

How can you identify an adder?

Adders are not large in size – an adult adder can grow up to 60cm, males being smaller than females.

Most adders are marked with a distinct zig-zag down the length of the spine. Males are commonly white or pale grey with a dark brown/black zig-zag. Females are commonly a pale brown with a darker brown zig-zag. There are some adders that are completely black and are often mistaken for other species of snake.


What does their diet consist of? Who are their predators?

The adder, like most snakes, can survive for a substantial amount of time without eating. In cooler weather and when hibernating, this is easier for them.

Adders main prey are small mammals, bird eggs, frogs, mice, shrews, voles, small birds, insects, lizards and newts. Their two main natural predators include buzzards and herons.

Is the adder venomous?

Yes. Although adder’s have a venomous bite, they will attempt to flee from a predator/danger. Common effects of a venomous adder bite are nausea, drowsiness and swelling of the infected area. Its venom is hemotoxic, causing tissue damage and destroying blood cells.

Ecological consultancy services:

Our ecologists have experience in undertaking reptile surveys where adders have been found and well-practised with handling adders as part of road, rail and development projects. Surveys typically comprise 7 survey visits undertaken between April/May and September in suitable weather conditions and involve installing artificial refuges in the form of squares of bitumen felt or corrugated tin under which lizards congregate to warm up. If adders are found to be present, mitigation solutions can include:

  • Installation of temporary or permanent reptile exclusion fencing this is often combined with translocating reptiles to an alternative site either off site or in a designated area on site
  • Habitat manipulation by way of reducing the habitat e.g. grassland to encourage reptiles to disperse to the boundaries or a designated site


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