‘Adders pose no immediate threat’ says Leighton Buzzard pet shop manager in response to national media

A pet shop manager is sending a reassuring message to Leighton-Linslade residents in light of a national news story.

Julian Clare of Wrigglies Exotic Pets, Hockliffe Street, was telephoned for advice by concerned members of the public when a piece appeared in the national media with a headline about ‘killer vipers’.

Adder - credit: Graeme Skinner

Adder - credit: Graeme Skinner

The snake referred to in the article was the European adder (vipera berus) and Julian wants to reassure residents that the creature is nothing to panic about.

He said: “People should be able to enjoy their native wildlife free from fear and we don’t want snakes being killed.

“You are much more likely to get bitten if you try to move, touch, or harm one.

“I want to reassure the public that there is no immediate threat. It is extremely rare if you see an adder; it’s a very very special thing.”

Adder - credit: Graeme Skinner. The pictures are designed to show a level of variation in colour. Adders can also be slate grey and jet black.

Adder - credit: Graeme Skinner. The pictures are designed to show a level of variation in colour. Adders can also be slate grey and jet black.

Adders are the UK’s only venomous snake, and a bite could cause swelling, nausea or vomiting.

However, instances of bites are rare, and fatalities are also very rare - the last in Britain occurred in 1975, while between 1876 and 1975 there were only 14 recorded deaths - and as Julian points out in many of these cases underlying health conditions were a factor or people have tried to handle/disturb the snake.

Julian advises that if you are bitten that you should seek medical advice immediately. But he emphasises: “Bites are very very infrequent and adders are shy; I don’t want people to be worried about their kids playing in the garden or in a field. Observe from a distance, keep your dog on a lead - and enjoy it! If you see one, you’ve been very lucky.”

Adders, usually found in woods or healthland, are an indication of a healthy eco-system and sightings have increased lately because breeding season started in March/April.

Slow worm - credit: Wolfgang Wuster.

Slow worm - credit: Wolfgang Wuster.

Julian also added that he hoped the public would be kinder to slow worms (anguis fragilis), as some people harm or kill them in fear.

He said: “They are really the gardener’s friend, and will eat slugs, worms, spiders and insects.”

Their tongue is forked slightly but not as deeply as in snakes, and they have eyelids (unlike snakes), therefore they are able to blink.

The slow worm is a legless lizard.

Julian Clare of Wrigglies. He is pictured here with alligator, Brian, at the Dunstable store.

Julian Clare of Wrigglies. He is pictured here with alligator, Brian, at the Dunstable store.