Rise in adder sightings in Northumberland as experts suspect spring sunshine and wildlife awareness are behind increased reports

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Adders appear to be enjoying the spring sunshine and absence of human disturbance during lockdown.

There have been anecdotal reports of increased sightings of Britain’s only venomous snake in the Northumberland countryside in recent weeks.

Duncan Hutt, head of living landscapes and conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said the reports could be accurate – or that people have become more observant when they are out and about on their daily exercise.

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“We don’t yet know whether there has been a population increase,” he said. “It’s difficult to judge at the moment until proper studies can be done but if people are out and about in their local patch they might be looking out for things more than they normally would.”

An adder. Picture by Duncan Hutt.An adder. Picture by Duncan Hutt.
An adder. Picture by Duncan Hutt.

However, he acknowledged that the warmer days of spring on the back of a mild winter offer a great chance of seeing the cold-blooded reptiles.

“This is a great time of year to see them because it’s warming up,” he said. “We’ve had a dry and sunny spring, even if it can still be quite chilly in the mornings.

“They will come out and find a sunny spot but they aren’t particularly mobile until they warm up. They are much more lethargic in the morning.”

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Adders, recognisable by a dark, continuous 'zig-zag' stripe along their back, are most commonly spotted in heathland and moorland, as well as woodland glades and coastal dunes.

There have been anecdotal reports of more adder sightings in Northumberland.There have been anecdotal reports of more adder sightings in Northumberland.
There have been anecdotal reports of more adder sightings in Northumberland.

“One of the great places to spot them is at Wooler Common, especially the woodland edges where they can get a bit of shelter from the wind,” said Duncan.

“They’re not something you’ll see frequently but they are quite faithful to the places they like to bask in.”

Their poison is generally of little danger to humans: an adder bite can be very painful and cause a nasty inflammation, but is really only dangerous to the very young, ill or old.

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“If you see one, don’t approach it,” advises Duncan. “They will slither away if you leave it be but if it’s a cold day they might not have the energy they normally have. It’s when people get closer and closer and it feels backed into a corner that it might strike.”

An adder spotted in the Northumberland countryside. Picture by Duncan Hutt.An adder spotted in the Northumberland countryside. Picture by Duncan Hutt.
An adder spotted in the Northumberland countryside. Picture by Duncan Hutt.

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