BRITS aren’t the only ones basking in our current glorious weather – venomous vipers also slither out in the heat.
Experts warn that bites from adders are set to spike in the coming weeks as more of us head outdoors and into areas where adders hunt for prey.
Adder bites peak in July and August during warm weather, according to snake experts
According to the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, most adder bites take place between April-September, with a “marked peak” in July and August.
The Kennel Club has already warned dog walkers to be viper vigilant in the warm weather, with 85 per cent of bites recorded during summer months.
Adders are the UK’s only venomous wild snake and, while rare, around 60-80 bites are recorded in Britain every year. They prefer woodland, heathland and moorland habitats.
And Mark O’Shea MBE, Professor of Herpetology at the University of Wolverhampton, says human behaviour is most likely to blame for the summer spike in bites.
“It’s the holiday period,” snake expert Mark tells The Sun.
“It’s a period where people go walking along the cliffs in an area they don’t particularly know where there might be snakes, in Pembrokeshire for instance.”
Adder bites are painful and require urgent medical treatment – as some people have already found out this summer.
One girl was recently left throwing up and battling excruciating pain as her foot swelled up “three times” its usual size after an adder bite.
Grace Roys, 11, was on a walk with her family in Osmotherley, North Yorks., when she was bitten last week.
“Her dad came back from packing up the car and saw Grace was crying hysterically, but he thought she was overacting,” mum Maggy told Teeside Live.
“She was adamant she’d stood on a snake, but he thought it was just a worm or a caterpillar.”
Adders in Britain
Adders are the only venomous wild snake in the UK.
Adult adders are typically between 60-80cm and they live for up to 15 years.
They are stocky snakes that prefer woodland, heathland and moorland habitats.
Adders have a distinctive zig-zag pattern down their backs – males tend to be grey in colour while females are brown.
They hibernate between October and March, but can be found across the country in warmer months.
Adder bites can be painful and cause inflammation, but they’re usually only dangerous to the very young, ill or old.
If bitten, medical attention should be sought immediately, however.
Adders prefer to hide rather than confront other animals or humans; most attacks happen when they are trodden on or picked up.
Instead, they use their venom to immobilise and kill their prey of small mammals, nestlings and lizards.
Source: The Wildlife Trusts.
As the family travelled home, Grace began vomiting and her foot later turned black and blue as her face swelled.
“As soon as I saw her, I knew we had to get her to A&E,” Maggy added. “You could make out the teeth marks, and we were seen to straight away.”
Medics confirmed Grace had been bitten by an adder, with the snake’s venom having reached her kidneys.
Swelling continued up her leg, but doctors planned to treat her with antihistamines and antibiotics.
‘Latched onto his leg’
Others have faced even more frightening bites.
Lewis Wise was just three years old when he was left unable to walk following an adder bite in Surrey last year.
“We think he may have trod on it by accident and it latched onto his leg,” dad Daniel said at the time.
“It was instant and then he was in excruciating pain.”
Daniel added that he did his best to keep Lewis relaxed throughout the ordeal.
“You have to keep your children calm because the faster your heart pumps, the quicker the venom goes around your body.”
The most serious effects of adder bites usually occur in cases of the very young, elderly, or infirm.
But one 27-year-old dead was left fighting for his life when he was bitten trying to swat a snake away from his toddler’s pram.
Protect your pet: Vet’s advice
David Walker RCVS of Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Hampshire says dog owners should be on their guard after recent biting reports.
“Most bites are on the limbs or face and local, painful swelling will generally occur within minutes,” David tells The Sun.
“Dogs bitten on the leg will typically be lame. Some dogs will go on and develop body-wide effects and this can include signs like extreme tiredness, vomiting and collapse.
“If you suspect your dog has been bitten by an adder, you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
“Treatment will depend upon the pet’s condition but often involves fluid therapy and pain relief. Anti-venom, in addition to other treatment, may help with the local swelling.”
Anderson Moores’ advice on adders:
1. Your dog is most at risk of being bitten by an adder as the weather warms up and the snakes emerge from hibernation.
2. Dogs are most frequently bitten in the early afternoon when adders are most active after the midday heat.
3. If you see an adder in your garden, or when out for a walk, it is advisable to leave it alone. The adder is a protected species and it is illegal to harm or kill them.
4. If your dog is bitten by an adder, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible
Josh Rose needed to be treated in intensive care after going into anaphylactic shock on Hounslow Heath, west London, in 2017.
“I was paralysed, my blood started to clot and I couldn’t speak, I was foaming at the mouth,” Builder Josh said.
“I could hear everyone talking, but couldn’t open my eyes or speak. It was horrible.
Medics successfully treated Josh with anti-venom and he was able to return home from hospital the following day.
“I’m just happy it wasn’t one of my boys or my sister’s kids,” he said afterwards.
Despite the danger some have faced from bites, experts say adders in the UK should be being helped by the public.
Prof Mark O’Shea says there are still strong populations in Pembrokeshire, the North Yorkshire Moors, and in Dorset, but otherwise they’re declining.
He’s also personally been bitten by adders – the first time while picking one up out of a cage during a wildlife show in the 1970s.
“It was only three weeks after the last death from an adder bite in the UK,” Mark tells The Sun, referring to the case of Raymond Leitch, a five-year-old who died in Scotland after being bitten in 1975.
In the twentieth century, there were 12 fatalities in Britain.
Mark went to hospital for treatment following his bite, and he says you should too if you happen to be one of the 60-80 people bitten by adders around the country each year.
“It is a venomous snake, and a snake bite is a medical emergency, and you do need go to hospital,” Mark says.
“But it is unlikely to end tragically.”
If you try and pick it up, it’ll bite you
Mark has survived much more dangerous venom, including in 2012 when he was airlifted to hospital after being bitten by a king cobra at West Midland Safari Park.
And he was nearly killed by a canebrake rattlesnake at the same park in 1993.
Despite being bitten by adders, Mark says he loves the “beautiful” reptiles, which are the most widely distributed land snakes on the planet.
He advises that if you do come across an adder, don’t be worried.
“It’s not going to attack you, it’s not going to jump up and chase you,” Mark says.
“If you try and pick it up, it’ll bite you. If you step on it, it will naturally respond to that.
“But if you’re a metre or two away, you’re not going to bitten by that snake.”
While there may be hundreds of adders still in the wild, some areas where they once thrived in Britain now have none left at all.
Dr Angela Julian, Coordinator of Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (Arg) says some people intentionally kill adders believing they’re doing a good thing.
“It’s with heavy hearts that we conserve adders,” Angela says. “I feel we are struggling against the odds. It’s not a species that I see thriving and expanding and doing well.”
Angela says post-mortem examinations on some dead adders have shown the snakes were been beaten to death with blunt force.
“We had another incident near Basildon in Essex where two years ago they found about seven animals with their heads cut off,” Angela says.
If the animal has seen you and is starting to react, just step back
Angela Julian, Arg
“The persecution is very unpleasant when you see it.”
Angela also advises anyone who is bitten to seek medical attention – but such incidents can be generally avoided if adders are left alone.
“If you see an adder on the path, it’s not going to rush at you and lunge at you and bite you, it’s going to just carry on basking, but it’ll feel timid,” Angela says.
“It will be aware of you and it might put its head up and it might look.
“If the animal has seen you and is starting to react, just step back. Give it a chance to move away.
“But don’t panic!”
Lewis Wise was hospitalised after being bitten by an adder last yearCredit: BPM
Josh Rose thought he was going to die and needed intensive care treatment following his biteCredit: Collect
Grace Roys’ foot and leg swelled up after she stood on an adder last weekCredit: NCJ Media
Male adders (left) are greyish in colour, while females (right) have a brownish hueCredit: Mark O’Shea