Snakes in the Grass
At the ABLE project we are proud of the wildlife that our site attracts and at this time every year we start to get sightings of one of our most exciting residents. For some they send a shiver down the spine for others sheer excitement takes hold, whichever it is our resident grass snakes always provoke a reaction.
Grass snakes are one of only three British species; the other two are the adder (Britain’s only venomous snake) and the smooth snake (Britain’s rarest snake). Grass snakes are Britain's largest snake, reaching 70-120 cm in length (up to 200 cm in warmer areas). They can be found throughout southern Britain and prefer damp habitats, often close to water, where they feed on frogs, toads and newts. Grass snakes are excellent swimmers.
Grass snakes are non-venomous, grey/green in colour (sometimes with black spots) and a yellow/cream/orange band around the neck. A black line runs from the eye to the mouth and the underside is usually white or pale yellow with a chequered effect. They are active during the day and bask in the sun to warm up. They hibernate from October to April and have been found sleeping in compost heaps. When threatened, they emit a foul-smelling liquid and may roll onto their back and play dead for up to 15 minutes. In recent years grass snakes have suffered a national decline as a result of changing land use and deliberate persecution.
On our Wakefield farm sightings can be almost daily though often it is simply the briefest of views as the snakes want to avoid us wherever possible. Last year for the first time we found a young grass snake only a few centimetres long. This was evidence that the snakes are also breeding on the site, we are hoping for more again this year.
If you are hoping to see one the best time is between 9 and 11am whilst they are basking in the sun to warm up. Tread lightly to try and avoid scaring them away and you never know what you may find!!