Are adders poisonous?
Adders are the only venomous snake native to Britain. This means they have to inject toxins through their teeth unlike poisonous animals that generally secrete toxins externally through their skin.
Are adders dangerous?
Adders are only dangerous if you are within biting distance. Adders are very sensitive to vibrations so generally will be able to feel you coming and move out of the way before you even know they are there!
Never disturb an adder or attempt to pick one up.
What happens if I am bitten?
If you are bitten try not to panic. It may not be as bad as you think!
Adder bites, although painful, are rarely fatal. It is still important to get to your nearest hospital as soon as possible calling for an ambulance if need be.
What should I do if I am or someone else is bitten?
Never attempt to carry out first aid to treat an adder bite yourself!
Immobilise the bitten limb immediately. Stopping the limb moving reduces the blood flow and the rate at which the venom is carried around the body.
Get to hospital as quickly as possible where they can treat you with anti venom and monitor your body’s reaction in case of an allergic reaction
What should I do if my dog is bitten?
Just as you would treating a person, try to stop the bitten limb moving.
Phone your vets before you arrive so they are aware of the situation. Not all vets stock adder anti venom due to the short shelf life of the medication and infrequency of bites. If you phone ahead they can prepare the anti venom or redirect you to another vet that does stock the treatment.
How do I know if it is an adder?
Adders are most easily identified by the dark zigzag pattern down their back. Generally in males this is black and in females dark brown. They also have a distinctive “V” or “X” shape on the back of their heads.
Unlike other native snake species that have round pupils, adders have a vertical “slit” like pupil. Their eyes are generally red in colour. Background colours can vary dramatically. You can even find adders that are completely black!
If you see an adder, report your sighting on Living Record.
I’m still unsure about identifying snakes, what should I do?
If you’re unsure about a snake don’t touch it or try to get a better look! There are many non native snakes living in the wild that have escaped from captivity and could be dangerous.
For help on identifying snake species visit Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to browse their identification resources.
Do Dorset Wildlife Trust run reptile events?
If you’re keen to broaden your knowledge Dorset Wildlife Trust runs events throughout spring and summer to bring you closer to reptiles in Dorset. For reptile ravers young and old, our events are open to all and are sure to be enlightening and entertaining!
How do I get rid of adders off my property?
Not many people realise that adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to deliberately hurt or kill an adder in this country.
It is unlikely to be an adder in your garden as they favour scrubbier habitats. It is more likely to be a grass snake that is looking for somewhere safe to lay their eggs, like a compost heap.
Overgrown areas in gardens can provide good cover and hunting ground for adders. An easy way to deter adders is simply to maintain your garden and clear overgrown areas that they favour.
I'm still worried about adders in my garden, who can help?
Never attempt to remove an adder yourself. If you are still concerned about adders on your property contact your local council’s Environmental Services to discuss your options.
Can Dorset Wildlife Trust help me if I have adders in my garden?
It is understandable that a snake in the garden can cause concern, especially if it is only seen fleetingly.
Get a positive ID by sending us a photo on Twitter to @DorsetWildlife or post it on our Facebook page. Snake, shed skins or any other evidence you might find, we’re happy to take a look!