Saturday, 23 July 2016
Not Very Pleased With Ted (don't read if you're snake phobic)
Much as I love terriers, the downside is their desire to grab hold, shake things and not leave go until the life is well and truly gone. This is the second grass snake we've lost this week. The females are more visible in June and July because it's egg laying time and they're looking for compost heaps to deposit their eggs in. Both of this year's casualties were discovered crossing the patio heading up the garden towards the compost heaps. Unfortunately, they didn't escape Teddy's notice and he dispatched them both.
Grass snakes are lovely things. Quiet, self-contained and terribly frightened by people to the extent they usually bolt for cover when they hear us coming, they have no venom and no means of protecting themselves beyond playing dead, making the occasional lunge (which is a feint as I've never heard of anyone being actually bitten by them) and sometimes ejecting a nasty smell from their tale end.
Their numbers are dropping as habitat is lost and amphibian numbers decline, so they could really do without Terrier Teddy's attentions.
I'm putting up the photos because it's rare to see one and certainly not close up like this. If you're in any doubt of the difference between the harmless grass snake and the venomous adder (the UK's only native poisonous snake) have a look at the yellow collar in the photos which is just behind the head of the grass snake. The adder doesn't have a yellow collar. The grass snake also has small black vertical lines on its side, which the adder doesn't have. Instead, the adder has more obvious black zig-zag or diamond markings down the centre of its back.
It goes without saying that if you're bitten by a snake regardless of what you think it is (unless you really know your reptiles), get down to A&E because an adder will make you feel pretty poorly and can be very dangerous to children. I know of a lass who picked up an adder which promptly bit her hand (don't ask! She knew what it was so Lord know why she handled it) and her arm swelled up, went black and she ran a high fever for a while. While Adders won't usually bite unless provoked, it's wise to give them a wide berth. Adders have sufficient venom to kill a small dog, so I really hope Teddy never meets one, as currently he has no respect for snakes at all :o(
I'm hoping that enough females have got through Operation Ted to make it to the compost and lay their eggs. We won't know for sure till next Spring when we empty it and hopefully discover the shells. Unless I'm lucky enough to find another tiny wee bootlace version baby grass snake in the autumn.
Grass snakes, and adders, are protected under UK law and it is an offence to kill them. If you find one in the garden let it be- it really won't bother you and will be much more worried about getting and keeping out of your way. If you find an adder it's probably worth phoning your local wildlife trust which will almost certainly have a reptile group and getting further advice, particularly if you have children who play in the garden.
Hope all are well?