Friday, 21 March 2014

Norfolk Wildlife Services studying rare adders

Chris Smith, Norfolk Wildlife Services

Scientists are studying rare adders at Cawston Heath so that their heathland hibernation habitats can be better managed.

Adder, photo by Karl Charters
Dan Cadwallader from Norfolk Wildlife Services, the ecological science company of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: "They aren't the cuddliest of creatures, but I am hoping to start in the autumn for a Phd around adder at UEA."  

The company is photographing adders to trace their hibernation places, which are often on sunny banks, rabbit holes and tree stumps. "The hard part is not getting bitten as this is very emotionally disturbing for the snakes. We will be treating any nest of vipers found, well with some proverbial caution."   

The company's staff, who are specially trained, will be equipped with stout boots and specialist snake gauntlets for the photography work, and using digital cameras to record scale patterns, which are unique to each snake.

The animals have been asleep since October 2013, so they are still sleepy as they wake up in the cool spring weather. Generally when they are active, the tramp of feet will cause they to slip away. However we would recommend that anyone with a nosey dog that likes to sniff things to be kept on a lead on the Trust's heathland reserves.  If dogs do get bitten, which is often on the muzzle or nose, consult a vet immediately to get the dog monitored and have pain relief.  The snake venom is designed to hunt mice, rats and lizards, so for anything larger the effect is similar to wasp stings - very painful, but with a similar issue of anaphylactic shock.

Norfolk Wildlife Services is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Norfolk Wildlife Trust and we gift aid our profits back to the Trust at the end of the year to benefit the county's wildlife and wild habitats directly.

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