Sunday, 16 June 2013

Red in tooth and claw

Here is an Adder, or Viper if you prefer, eating one of the lizards that seem to thrive around here.

Now as a child living in the countryside, I got a bit of advice about snakes in general and Adders in particular.  The first thing to know is that Adders are poisonous and you don't want them to bite you.  The books say that their strikes are not usually fatal to healthy adults, but I figure that this means that they sometimes are, and so at the very best, they probably hurt quite a lot.  Best avoided.

They are apparently recognised by their particular zig-zag pattern on the back, and a V- or A- shaped mark on the head. Well I have to say that I'm pretty sure the snake in the picture is an Adder, but I wouldn't say that the pattern on its back is a zig-zag.  Ok, yes, there's a V on its head.   Or a > or  <  or ^ depending on which way you look.

The second bit of advice I got was to always pick it up by holding it just behind the head, so it can't turn round and bite you.  This advice presupposes that you are going to pick it up in the first place, which is probably not a good idea (see above).  Nobody ever told me that if I was going to use this technique I should approach the head from behind, which seems to me to be too important a thing to have left out.

The other advice was to use a forked stick to hold it down, again, placing the fork of the stick just behind the Adder's head.   But then, I wonder, what do you do with the snake?  You're not supposed to kill them because they're rare and protected, so presumably you are going to move it somewhere, which probably involves picking it up, and the forked stick is now where you want to put your fingers.   Plus, since the stick is forcing the snake against the ground, preventing it from moving and possibly strangling it, the snake, by now, is annoyed.

It did strike me (maybe that's not the phrase to use) that if I wanted to pick up an Adder, the best time to do it might be when it's got its gums round a lizard: the poison sacks might be less full than normal, and it might have less mouth movement available to bite.  It is an opportunity that I shall forever regret passing over.

In the end, Adders are shy, and will slither away if left alone.  Good plan.


Steve said...

I prefer my poisonous snakes to be on the telly.

James Higham said...

Goodness - it really is Garden of Eden around your place.

Mark In Mayenne said...

Alas, I have been searching for the tree of knowledge of good and evil, with no success so far.

Gorilla Bananas said...

The problem is that snakes don't eat very often. Throwing a blanket on it must be the best way of making it safe. Another interesting fact about snakes is that they hiss when you fart on them.

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