Worried about newspaper reports of footpaths infested with venomous snakes? The family of a nine year old girl who made the headlines recently after being bitten by an adder in Hampshire has spoken up in support of snakes. Tylar Butcher, who was holidaying in the New Forest, was rushed to hospital after being bitten while walking with her family.
Tylar’s grandfather, Bill Flitney, an RSPB member, contacted the national wildlife charity after the story was widely reported in the press concerned that the incident may spark a public reaction against adders and wishing it be known that the family held no ill feelings towards the snakes. Bill said, “Tylar has been very brave throughout; it was a horrible thing to happen. The first thing I knew about it was when I had a phone call from Elayne, Tylar’s mum, who asked me what a grass snake looked like. I asked why, and she said that Tylar had just been bitten by one and what should she do. I asked what the snake looked like and she had described an adder. I told her to dial 999 and make it to a known position to meet the ambulance. And the rest has been well reported. But she’s getting over it very well and is in fact now developing quite an interest in snakes! We are all very keen to say that despite what happened we certainly don’t feel angry towards these creatures.”
The RSPB’s Tony Whitehead said, “Many of our nature reserves, especially in southern England, are home to snakes including adders. Indeed Dorset and the New Forest are perhaps the richest areas in the UK not just for adders, but for grass snakes and the nationally scarce smooth snake –the only three truly native species of snake in the country. It’s only the adder that is venomous and needs, naturally, to be treated with respect. However, and although this is of little consolation to Tylar, they are normally quite timid creatures and more often than not they simply slip away unnoticed if in the vicinity of humans. They generally only bite if threatened, trodden on or cornered as they don’t really want to waste their venom on things that aren’t prey.” One of the best RSPB reserves for reptiles is Arne near Wareham in Dorset - http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/a/arne. It is home to all six UK resident species: adder, grass snake, smooth snake, sand lizard, common lizard and slow worm.
The RSPB works closely with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) on managing its land for the benefit of reptiles including snakes. ARC’s current campaign, ‘Sliding Scales’ - http://www.arc-trust.org/sliding_scales - aims to promote better awareness and conservation of snakes in the UK. Nick Moulton, Conservation officer for ARC said, “More than ever, adders, as with many other reptiles and amphibians, need our support.”