Roadside nature reserves to save the misunderstood British adder
ADDERS are to be given protected roadside habitats in an attempt to boost numbers as conservationists insist they pose “little risk” to the public.
Denbighshire County Council is believed to be the first local authority in the UK to unveil plans to use roadside nature reserves to help preserve the country’s only venomous snake.
The measures are being taken amid fears that adders are vanishing with the species believed to be extinct in Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire, and endangered in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and London.
A loss of natural habitat and human “persecution” has damaged the adder population, experts have said.
In North Wales, one of the reptile’s last remaining strongholds, work has started to create a 150metre-long stretch of roadside verge in Hiraethog, where snakes will be protected under a “specific habitat management plan”.
The council, which already operates roadside reserves for wild plants and flowers, said it hoped its approach would be rolled out across the country.
However, organisers admitted they faced a battle to change public perceptions about the snakes, which they said often came under attack from people scared of their venom.
Joel Walley, the project’s architect, said people killed adders, which are protected by law, “out of fear”.
He said: “They are fascinating animals, with complex ecology and behaviours, and they are not dangerous unless they feel threatened. People are still scared of them and harm them, traditional lands are lost and they have quite a slow reproductive cycle.”
Mr Walley, an ecology officer at the council, blamed the adder’s image problem on representations of snakes in films and TV programmes, citing Indiana Jones as an example.
“[Snakes] are big scary things in the media. People think they are sort of slimy but they are really beautiful things,” he said.
Last month, the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK declared a “whole generation’s attitude” needed to change to prevent adders from extinction, as it hosted a series of workshops with children in Pembrokeshire.
Angela Julian, national co-ordinator, said adders were “generally not in a good state in Britain”, because of the “historic persecution” of habitats.
According to the Wildwood Trust, 12 people have died after adder bites in Britain, with the last fatality understood to have been in Scotland in 1975.
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