Seven facts about Broads reptiles as survey starts

Female adder. Picture: Malcolm Farrow

Female adder. Picture: Malcolm Farrow - Credit: Malcolm Farrow

Ecologists and volunteers will spend their summers hunting for lizards and snakes in the Norfolk Broads as their reptile survey gets under way.

Slow-worm. Picture: Malcolm Farrow

Slow-worm. Picture: Malcolm Farrow - Credit: Malcolm Farrow

All of the UK’s six species of reptile are in decline, making it more important than ever that these creatures are protected.

This is one of the Broads Authority’s challenges, along with maintaining navigable waterways for boaters which can require extensive dredging.

In order to ensure that this process does not disturb reptile habitats, a population survey is undertaken over a number of months to understand where these animals create their habitats and ensure their work does not affect them.

Ecologists are also keen to raise awareness of these species, and have shared some lesser-known facts about them.

Male adder. Picture: Malcolm Farrow

Male adder. Picture: Malcolm Farrow - Credit: Malcolm Farrow

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• Four of the UK’s six native reptile species can be found in the Broads – adders, grass snakes, common lizards and slow-worms.

• Slow worms are neither a worm nor a snake, they are actually a legless lizard and have lifespans of up to 20 years.

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• Adders are the UK’s only venomous snake, identifiable by the zigzag patterning down their backs.

• Adders and common lizards are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Both species incubate their eggs inside their bodies.

• Reptiles have some handy tricks to avoid predators – adders are highly camouflaged, whilst common lizards and slow worms will shed their still twitching tails to distract predators.

• Grass snakes play dead, writhing on to their backs and opening their mouths to let their tongues hang out.

• Grass snakes will also emit a stomach-turning smell from vents in the tail, which takes weeks to remove from any material it comes into contact with.

The survey is already under way and will continue until September in a variety of locations across the Broads National Park.

Broads Authority Ecologist Hannah Southon said: “Reptiles love the Broads because there’s such a diverse mosaic of habitats concentrated within a small area, like wetlands and sunny dry banks for them to bask on.

“We have to ensure that our dredging work happens sensitively, doing a thorough survey before and after, so that we can keep this a significant area for reptile conservation in the future.”

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