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Baby grass snake or adder

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JOC View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23 Aug 2017 at 1:50pm
So we've just found this little fellow basking on our patio.  About 6" long and about pencil thick.

I thought all grass snakes had a yellow collar and that adders didn't.  Ergo it's most visible feature says its a grass snake.  However, it's very dark.  Now at the weekend my son and I visited the reptile centre at the New Forest and they had a natural black variant of an adder in one of their pits and the colouration on its back showed the zig-zagging very diminished and almost indistinguishable against its general dark colour and very similar to this fellow.  So part of the question is do adders (esp. young ones) ever demonstrate the yellow collar seen on this specimen?  Then again are young grass snakes ever this dark? 

In terms of behaviour - it was striking out constantly as I might imagine a viper to do (are grass snakes constrictors?) and I fancy it had a diamond shaped head.  We KNOW we have grass snakes here in good numbers, but despite our location (not usually associated with adders) we also think we do have adders - the horse next door got bitten once (we aren't far from a coastal estuary sea wall - good adder habitat) and the vet treated her with anti-venom.  At first glance I thought grass snake due to the collar alone, but there are enough contrary indications that I am not 100% certain it isn't an adder.  Does anyone know please?

In case its an adder (we have dogs that we didn't want harmed as it grew up) we carefully moved him away from the house (using a black bucket) and put him in what I felt was a good habitat further away from the house.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2017 at 9:46am
I can confirm it is a grass snake.

Though there are specimens that are dark and records of entirely black individuals, they also appear much darker in the days before sloughing their skins and I think this is the case here.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2017 at 12:04pm
Hello GemmaJF, many thanks for that. 
I should have gone with what my gut told me.  The trouble is with one being able to provide a nasty bite that minor niggling doubt regarding the colour caused me to doubt the evidence of the collar - I don't think I've have had an issue with the ID had I not have seen the black colour variant adder at the reptile centre.  That one, of course, didn't have a collar, but was such a similar colour that it caused me to wonder sufficiently to ask the experts!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2017 at 6:35pm
No worries, that is what we are here for. 

I did notice on your grass snake there is a marking on the back that is a bit like an adder stripe too. We have had a couple of individuals with this sort of marking on the forum before. 

But yes the yellow collar is always the give away, though some older females may have no yellow at all, the black neck marking I have never seen absent.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote PondDragon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2017 at 10:28pm
If Gemma's right and it's coming up to sloughing, then chances are it's hatched extremely nearby. I agree that the colours do look very dull, not vibrant like a newly shed individual. They shed their skin pretty soon after hatching, so if you have a compost heap in the garden there's a good chance that's where it's come from. Look out for the empty egg shells when you turn/use any compost - typically 20-30 whitish eggs about 1" long, stuck together in a mass.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2017 at 11:06pm
Hi Pond Dragon, I will keep an eye out as they would be interesting to find and something I have not yet seen. We have about 5 compost heaps and an old manure heap or two, so it tends to be habitat central here. We have frogs, newts (nore than one type), grass snakes, lizards (variety/ies unknown), slow worns etc. We have ponds plural, ditches, wildflower meadow, established trees an old orchard, bog garden, a healthy small mammal population, foxes, raptors, owls and bats. I've got enough here to keep county recorders busy for a month LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote will Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Aug 2017 at 4:45pm
Blimey!  lucky you - have Springwatch sorted their location for next year yet?

I came across this grassy with a reduced collar this spring, but never seen one completely absent myself:


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Aug 2017 at 9:00am
Hi will
 
Ha, ha.......I have often tried to get people to visit our place - either film crews or recorders to take note of what we have, I've also offered it as a release site to things like wildlife rescue groups, but without exception no-one has shown any interest in seeing what we have here.  It throws up a number of thoughts related to the question why?  A number of scenarios are possible ranging from.
 
- Lack of resources to follow up
- Too many similar habitats to investigate (though the media suggests that 'wild' habitats are declining?)
- Genuine lack of interest
- It also makes me wonder how many statistics produced on the scarcity of animal and plant populations are inaccurate due to places like ours remaining un-investigated. 
 
It's a real shame - we don't have the resources or knowledge to properly investigate what we have here - we could even have rare populations of this or that, but no-one seems interested.  I cannot believe that our situation is unique and  I do wonder how many hundreds of acres of stunning habitats and wildlife go unrecorded due to a lack of resources (which is what I imagine is the real problem).
 
That's a lovely snake photo though - interesting to see one largely without its yellow band.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Aug 2017 at 5:56pm
Will, second picture down on the ID page. Female with no yellow patch. I actually faked the yellow in Photoshop on the top picture, as it was in reality entirely absent. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote will Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Aug 2017 at 8:27pm
@JOC - what a shame to have this lack of interest!  maybe you should submit a fake planning application and watch as the council sends in ecologists galore to survey what's there before it goes under a bulldozer...Wink   Surely the local wildlife trust would send someone?  sounds a paradise anyway and well done you, even if it is unrecognised by the 'officials'.

@Gemma - got it, thanks - I've seen older females without yellow/cream collar but the one in my pic above was the first I've seen with little of the black behind the collar.  It also had few bars on its body, but still Natrix natrix helvetica or Natrix helvetica or Natrix what-the-hel LOL rather than 'persa' or a hybrid.
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