How to Spot an Adder in Suffolk (Minsmere)

Location – walking between Coastguard Cottage and The Sluice, at RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk. Take a quick step to the left behind one of the concrete anti-tank blocks and have a pee. Look up and right in front of you is a collection of 10+ adders basking in the sun. Unfortunately by the time Mrs CT got there with the camera most of them had skedaddled back into their gorse home. Apparently Mrs CT didn’t find it funny when I asked her to come an take a picture of a snake!!

  • Common name – adder
  • Scientific name – Vipera berus berus
  • Size – males rarely exceed 60cm in length. Females grow larger than males, up to 80cm.
  • Identification tips – adders have very distinctive ‘zig-zag’ patterns that run the entire length of the body, on the back and sides. This is commonly a dark grey colour, over a light brown or tan body.
  • Preferred habitat – woodland and shrub, anywhere where there is an abundant supply of food. Adders will bask in the sunshine in open areas, but never too far away from cover.
  • Diet – small rodents, lizards, nestlings and amphibians such as frogs and newts.
  • Breeding – the mating month is May, and the pregnant females give birth to between 5 and 25 adders in August/September. A typical nesting place is under a fallen tree stump or any well protected hollow.
  • Other points – adders are Britain’s only venomous snake. While the venom itself is extremely strong, the small quantity injected into the victim greatly limits the effect – particularly in larger animals. 
    Adders are spread throughout the New Forest and surrounding countryside but, like any snake, they are very elusive. The best place to look for adders is along New Forest pathways and tracks on warm days. 
    If a bite is received from an adder, medical advice needs to be sought promptly. It’s worth noting that most bites to humans (around 100 per year for the whole of the UK) happen when the person is attempting to pick the adder up. Probably best not to try that!

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