Warning for local dog walkers: Beware of adders!

Beware – thee might be snakes in the local grassland. Archive image from my 365days journal.

Hi folks – time for a warning – I’m seeing reports that dogs are being bitten by adders at Chasewater and other heathland at the moment, so take care.

Adders are the UK’s only venomous snake, and the sun brings them out. Timid and furtive creatures, they won’t bite unless to defend themselves, and are quite hard to find; however they do like to bask in the sun and it’s easy for dogs and humans running through long grass and scrub to disturb them with unpleasant consequences.

Adder bites are rarely fatal in humans (although anaphylaxis is a real possibility) but they can be fatal in dogs – see the NHS advice on snake bites here for advice on what to do if you’re bitten. Adders have been present in this country probably longer than us humans, and there’s nothing can be done, nor should it be, about their presence: The only thing is if on the common, the heaths around Chasewater and other open land like Cannock Chase, keep your dog and kids close by and take great care.

The Forestry Commission has this to say about adders:

The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders have the most highly developed venom injecting mechanism of all snakes, but they are not aggressive animals. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. No one has died from adder bite in Britain for over 20 years. With proper treatment, the worst effects are nausea and drowsiness, followed by severe swelling and bruising in the area of the bite. Most people who are bitten were handling the snake. Treat adders with respect and leave them alone.

Adders are fascinating creatures, but if you find one, don’t disturb it. Image from NHS England.

Vets 4 Pets has this to say about adder bites and dogs:

The only venomous snake native to the UK is the European adder (Vipera berus). Adults are roughly 50-60cm long and have a black/brown zigzag pattern along their back and V or X shaped marking on the back of the head. They are most commonly found in the south and south west of England, western Wales and Scotland where their preferred habitats are sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and woodland edges. Adders are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; this means that it is an offence to kill, harm, injure, sell or trade them.

Is my dog likely to get bitten?

Adder bites are fairly rare. Snakes generally only bite in self-defence, so normally bites occur when a snake is stepped on or disturbed by your dog. Puppies and young dogs can be especially curious and can unintentionally provoke an adder into biting. The majority of bites in dogs seem to occur between April and July, most commonly in the afternoon when the adders are most active.

Important points:
  • Most adder bites occur between April and July
  • Common adder habitats are sand dunes, rocky hillsides, moorland and also woodland edges
  • If your dog is bitten, don’t panic, try to keep them still and seek veterinary attention straight away
  • The most common signs are significant pain and swelling where the bite occurred as well as depression and lethargy
  • Less than 5% of patients display more severe signs and complications
  • 96-97% of bitten dogs make a full recovery, usually within 5 days, with appropriate treatment

For a map of reported adder sightings, check the Interactive Map Tool: https://data.nbn.org.uk/

So, there you have it – the key message is take care, keep dogs under control, and don’t panic if one bites, but act swiftly.

If you do find an adder on your local travels, please do get in touch – I’d love to see pictures! Comment here, ping me on social media or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

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One Response to Warning for local dog walkers: Beware of adders!

  1. christine holbrook says:

    Just got back from walking around Chasewater and we have seen numerous lizards around the boardwalk area.

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