Could King Charles save the UK’s only poisonous snake? Royal residences could provide a refuge for adders, as an expert warns they could be wiped out in Britain within 15 years
- Nick Milton, who has written a book on adders, said there are 260 sites in the UK
- He said one of the greatest threats to the UK adders are pheasants in estates
The adder, the only poisonous snake in the UK, could become extinct in 15-20 years, according to a leading expert.
Nick Milton, who has written a book on adders, said there are only 260 sites with the snakes left in the UK.
He told Radio 4’s Today Programme that because many habitats have fewer than ten adders, the risk that the snake could be wiped out in the next two decades is high.
Mr Milton said one of the greatest threats to adders is pheasants, which are able to kill the reptiles.
The game birds are released in their millions at shooting estates across the UK.
Nick Milton, who has written a book on adders, said there are only 260 sites with the snakes left in the UK
Mr Milton said one of the greatest threats to adders is pheasants, which are able to kill the reptiles. The game birds are released in their millions at shooting estates across the UK
Changing climate is also affecting the snakes. Adders normally go into hibernation in October, to reemerge in March.
But now they are being seen as much as a month earlier than normal.
A survey in 2019, the Great Adder Count, showed that adders are restricted to just 260 sites to the whole of Britain, and that 90 per cent of those have 10 or less snakes on them.
‘If we carry on like that will be extinct across most of Britain in the next 15 to 20 years.
‘There are a number of reasons. For climate change. There’s habitat destruction, there is increased predation. Disturbance, particularly from 60 million pheasants released into the countryside every year which will kill adders.’ He said that inbreeding in adders as their numbers drop is also leading to the population becoming more at risk.
Mr Milton said King Charles could play a role in helping to preserve adders as they are found in the grounds of two Royal residences: Sandringham and Balmoral. He also said that the country needs ‘adder champions’ to make the case for preserving the snakes, which he said pose very little threat to humans.
Adders, easily identified by the diamond pattern down their spine, can grow up to 80cm and prefer woodland, heathland and moorland habitats. They hunt lizards and small mammals, as well as ground-nesting birds.