Volunteers add support to Denbighshire’s rare reptile population

Volunteers are adding in the hours to help protect an increasingly rare snake species in Denbighshire.

Denbighshire County Council’s Adder Monitoring Project recently completed its first full year of surveying since 2019 after being put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Within North East Wales, Denbighshire is blessed with having a large amount of suitable habitat which could provide homes for this special UK conservation priority species.

Adders are very secretive and sensitive animals preferring to move off into the undergrowth rather than confronting humans and animals.  The species is sadly becoming increasingly rare, with some experts estimating an extinction of the species in the UK by 2032, if conservation efforts are not increased.

The main threats facing these amazing reptiles is through human disturbance, such as trampling vegetation, dogs being allowed off their leads disturbing the adders, and people getting too close trying to photograph them.

The other major issue surrounding adders is poor public perception which leads to a high rate of persecution.

Bites are rare, most incidents of bites take place when the animal is accidentally trodden on, picked up or antagonised. Adders are the only native venomous snake in the UK and their venom is generally of little danger to humans, however if bitten, medical attention should be sought immediately.

The Adder Monitoring Project is undertaken during the volunteers own time and under guidance from the Biodiversity team. It aims to locate forgotten population across Denbighshire while also surveying new areas which show signs of potential.

The surveys are carried out in their own time on the surveyor’s smartphones and automatically uploaded onto the Biodiversity Teams GIS system.

An annual training day is run for new volunteers but onsite training can be provided throughout the season.

In the last year 13 sites have been surveyed by volunteers across Denbighshire and 11 adults and one juvenile snake were recorded.

A new species record was made at one site when volunteers also found a grass snake.

Volunteers also rediscovered a population on a site which had not been surveyed in many years. This same site also recorded a juvenile sighting, indicating successful breeding had taken place.

Cllr Barry Mellor, Lead Member for Environment and Transport, said: “We are really grateful for all the volunteers who have helped us monitor the adder population across Denbighshire. The species is an important part of our local biodiversity and we are keen to make sure it is protected and supported.”

All monitoring data is forwarded onto Cofnod, the Local Environmental Record Centre for North Wales.

If you are interested in volunteering for monitoring during 2023 please email biodiversity@denbighshire.gov.uk