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?



  1. Oh dear, naughty Ted! Fingers crossed the grass snakes ssssneak in and lay some eggs.x

  2. Hello! Poor snakes, they really are quite beautiful -although I am glad that we don't have any here in our garden! We were recently walking in adder territory in Southampton (warning signs at beginning of the walk) and the kids were delighted and horrified with equal measure with the notion of finding a snake. Sadly we/they were very very noisy and I'm sure any self-respecting adder made a quick getaway. I bet Ted was pleased with himself though! Hope all is well with you. x

  3. What a wonderful thing to have grass snakes in your garden! I have never seen a snake in the wild. My grandfather told me that he'd seen grass snakes in his garden (suburban Birmingham, of all places) but that was long ago, sadly.

  4. He must be a toughie, your Ted! Impressed that he goes into battle with a snake and wins - I would run in the opposite direction myself...But, as you say, let's hope he never meets an adder...

  5. We had a young grass snake in the garden once a few years ago but none since which is a shame. Let's hope you have plenty hiding away in the compost heap. CJ xx

  6. Interesting!
    I always thought I could recognise an adder if I saw one, as we encountered them a lot when I was a child, but now I'm not so sure, so your descriptions helped.
    We had a story in the papers here recently, about a lad bitten by an adder in north Wales, so the subject is quite topical.
    Best wishes - to you and Ted :)

  7. Poor snakes. I've never seen an adder in the wild - would love to. That's the downside of having pets. Our cat killed a little firecrest once....

  8. Oh Ted - you really have blotted your copybook.

  9. Oh Teddy! You know I love you, but oh gosh, your poor Mummy can do without these things happening you know! Please try and leave any other visitors to the garden alone!!

  10. We've had grass snakes here (but not for many years now) and I see them often at the allotment. I think they like my open compost heap at the plot. I can't blame Ted for dispatching a grass snake as just the other day while digging up old strawberry plants I speared a toad. I felt dreadful as I love toads and I bet he'd done a fantastic job eating all the slugs that like to lurk under the strawberry leaves. Oh yes, the Night jars, we saw (and heard) lots, at least as many as last year.I think Surrey Wildlfe Trust do a great job of making sure the conditions are as good as they can be. As early as May they were diverting horses away from the optimum sites. Also this particular common is well away from housing (they actually want to build a new town very near here comprising some 3,000 houses which would be disastrous for the ecology) so it does not get the footfall of other sandy heathland around Surrey.

  11. It's like cats and fledglings, I'm afraid

  12. Goodness me! I feel a little queasy after reading that! I am not a snake lover! Living on a continent where all snakes are venemous - leaves little room to get up close and personal! I even avoid spiders!
    Ted is so typical of his breed! Shake first, ask questions later!
    We had grass snakes in our hedge when I lived near Alton, Hampshire! Didn't like them either!
    Great photos! Xxx

  13. Our little Ted also found snakes on our walks. He seemed very wary of them and did little more than bark, he was horrid to frogs though, it must be a terrier thing.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x