RAUK - Archived Forum - Vanishing Adders

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Vanishing Adders:

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Alan Hyde
Senior Member
Joined: 17 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 1416


View other posts by Alan Hyde
Posted: 17 Apr 2003

I have walked the heaths of Chobham, Brookwood , and Bisley Surrey since early childhood (70's). In this time I have noticed a climb in the number of berus during the 80's , and a serious drop in numbers during the 90's up untill now.

Two areas in particular are of serious concern to me , xxxxxxxx in Chobham , and Sheets Heath Brookwood. Both of these areas where extremely good with regards to berus , and at Chobham one muggy overcast day in 87 a friend and myself saw 28 in less than two hours. Sheets heath had a high number of Large berus ranging between 28-30 inches .

Sadly over these past 5-6 years I have watched the numbers drop rapidly ,and now in both areas it is very hard to even spot one.

There has been an increase in horseriders and dog walkers to both of these heaths ,and both are poorly managed in my opinion. With regards to Chobham I have often wondered whether Inbreeding or lack of prey items could have caused thier demise. This is quite a small compact area and as I said it held a large population of adders , (perhaps they ate themselves out of thier area?).

The heath I walk mostly these days is at Bisley/West end , and I have noticed the same drop in numbers over the last three years .It soon dawned on me that I have been ophotographing the same specimins over and over.

Here's a few pics

administrator37868.798275463
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Moderator
Admin Group
Joined: 14 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 21


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Posted: 17 Apr 2003

Hi Alan,

I am sure you will understand why I have edited your above post as we are particulary careful not to give too precise a location for some species.

Forum policy can be read at the link below.

http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/Forum%20policies.htm

Welcome to the forum

Mervyn

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Alan Hyde
Senior Member
Joined: 17 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 1416


View other posts by Alan Hyde
Posted: 17 Apr 2003

Hi Mervyn,

Sure, I understand totaly , I didn't think before posting ."Doh!"

Thanks, and nice to meet you.

 

Alan


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Gemma Fairchild
Krag Committee
Joined: 14 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 193


View other posts by Gemma Fairchild
Posted: 17 Apr 2003

Alan, I have visited a site on Hindhead Common Surrey, since the early 1980's, same story I am sad to say. It was an Adder hot spot back then. It wasn't unusual to see one coiled on another or Adders and Grass Snakes using the same basking site.

There has not been much of an increase in walkers or other users, there have always been a few but the site is fairly secluded. I would put some blame on bracken and birch infill, but over the years I spotted less and less young recruits, and more and more of the same old friends, now they too seem to have gone. (With a notable decline in Common Lizards)

It is difficult with these field observations to know the factors, did they just move, were the early eighties a good time for Adders at this site and I observed a peak population? Though I fear inbreeding the most, as part of a 1,000 acre heath it would seem unlikely to have been a totally isolated population. I think many would agree there is a wide spread decline in Adders, hopefully an answer will be found before it is too late.


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Martin
Senior Member
Joined: 23 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 87


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Posted: 18 Apr 2003
I firmly believe that frequent daytime disturbance from human connected activities, be it horse riding or dog walking causes a lot of damage for snakes. Not very helpful but at least we may agree.
Tony Phelps
Forum Specialist
Joined: 09 Mar 2003
No. of posts: 575


View other posts by Tony Phelps
Posted: 18 Apr 2003

I am of an age to know of areas where adders are now extinct, and for this reason I think it is Ok to mention areas.

My first experience with adders was 1949 when I was eight years old. The place - East Burnham Common Burnham Beeches. I became completely engrossed with this place and on a spring day I could count 30 adders in a morning. Then, in 1955 London Corperation decided to turn 50% of the heath over to car parking. (it was also policy at the time for gamekeepers, blokes on bikes with shotguns, to kill all snakes sighted). At the tender age of 14 I wrote to LC and pointed out the magnificant adder,(and other reptiles) population. The reply was more than patronising and I was told that Burnham Beeches was essentially a place for Londoners and locals to visit and relax. The decline continued until of my original marked population of 120 only 30 remained, in a restricted corner of the common. I appealed for management, but scrub took over, adders adieu. Ironically, I was approached some years ago as LC wanted to turn things around and bring back the heathland and, yes, the adders. I gave advice and things are perhaps on the up, although they have started to graze the site. I have not surveyed the site recently, keep meaning to, but am a bit wary of getting depressed. Other areas close by where adders are now extinct, due to public pressure, fire, and don't give a sh.t are Stoke Common and Black Park.

I believe Epping Forest, also LC controlled has a similar history.

On a positive note - we have in the last couple of years reintroduced the adder on to a London site, not gonna tell you where it is, but we have great hopes and all appears to be going  well. 

Was in the Mendips yesterday, and did a radio prog about the adder and decline in habitat. It went well and it also seems that Forest Enterprises may actually do something here - will keep you posted.

Also good news - re erosion/bad management Hartland site. National Trust have agreed to fence of the sensitive area to allow regeneration - and I did not have to nag to hard.

Adder populations are variable in dynamic habitats, one German site prone to flooding and there is no recorded site fidelity. Although adders can fluctuate due to food resources, this I think is rare where there is a wide prey spectrum. Claes Andren' Island population, which fluctuated from 20-200 individuals was due to high variability of one prey species, (ST vole).

I think this problem 'right to roam'greater access demanded by the public is the real cause it is just how the general population percieve the countryside, probably just as one big leisure park.  However, when you talk to individuals they often show a great deal of sympathy and that's encouraging.

I was talking to a group of ramblers this morning and when asked why he carried such a big stick the leader told  to knock thos b......y adders out of the way, although he added he woudn't necessarily kill one.

I hear rain is on the way - good.

 

Tony     


Alan Hyde
Senior Member
Joined: 17 Apr 2003
No. of posts: 1416


View other posts by Alan Hyde
Posted: 22 Apr 2003

Thank you everyone for your replies and observations.

I am going to keep a much closer eye on the adders at my usual herping spots in future , and will give regular reports .

Alan


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