It's World Snake Day - a day to learn more about these slithery (but not slimy) scaly creatures and understand their vital role in our ecosystems. With so many myths surrounding snakes it's all too easy to forget that many species are actually shy docile little (and not so little) dinosaur cousins.
Living on the North York Moos we occasionally stumble across reptiles, most often those lovely legless lizards with a permanent 'smile' - slow worms and occasionally if we're very lucky a common lizard or two. However, we do sometimes run into (although rarely literally) two of the UK's native true snakes: adders and grass snakes, encounters happen most often at the beginning of the year when the snakes are just coming out of hibernation and are basking on warm rocks or the middle of the footpath! The third native species is the smooth snake but these are usually only found in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey.
Grass snakes usually have white or cream collars and adders have a distinctive dark brown zigzag running the length of the back, usually starting with a V at the base of the skull, which many people take as a warning sign: V for venomous. It is worth noting that although serious and medical advice should be sought if you are unfortunate enough to be bitten, fatalities from adder bites are exceptionally rare but it's still best to watch from a safe distance (and keep any dogs on a short lead close at heel).
Help UK snake research
ARC Trust would love to receive details of any snakes you spot, find out how to report your sightings here: https://www.arc-trust.org/report-your-sightings
UK snakes shed their skin once or twice a year and if you should be lucky enough to find a sloughed skin you can help with the latest DNA research into potential reptile genetic impoverishment due to increasing population isolation from habitat loss, discover more about this innovative reptile genebank project including what to do if you find a skin. https://www.arc-trust.org/genebank