Snakes, slow worms and other lizards
Whilst tortoises, turtles and crocodiles are members of the reptile family we do not have in our area, there are certainly snakes, slow worms (a type of lizard) and the prospect of other lizards.
The delightful, and harmless, slow worm inhabits grassy areas and hibernates underground or in dense piles of undergrowth, but can be seen from March to September, quite regularly in gardens. They can detach their tail to evade predators and have been known to live for 50 years!
The grass snake is more usually found near water, but also occupies woodland rides and golf courses. Females can be an impressive one metre long, and lay their ten to forty eggs in warm vegetation, including manure and compost piles, and they too hibernate over winter. Although harmless to us, it is best not to handle them as they have a similar deterrent to a skunk!
The adder, or viper, is of course a venomous creature, and best kept well clear of. But naturally we would all love to see one. Males are typically silver with black markings, and females two-tone brown, but even all-black ones occur. Young are born live, just a month or so before they join their parents for hibernation.
Of the ‘true’ lizards, the only species potentially in our area will be the common (or viviparous) lizard. Having said that, there are very few records and these animals are only realistically going to be seen whilst basking on a warm day.
What’s happening to reptiles in Maidenhead?
Most of our British reptiles thrive on heath-land habitat, of which there are no significant tracts in our area. They prefer an undisturbed environment which is fast becoming a scarce commodity.
Populations of slow worms and grass snakes are probably quite stable, whilst adders and common lizards are likely to be in decline. Hopefully our studies and surveys will allow us a clearer picture of just how these fascinating creatures are faring in the Wild Maidenhead area.
What can I do?
Tell us if you see any snakes, slow worms or lizards and ideally take a photo - go to our sightings page.
In the garden, be alert for the possibility of grass snakes and slow worms (as well as hedgehogs) hibernating in compost heaps and piles of vegetation, before thrusting garden tools into them, and leave some areas of ‘wilder’ vegetation for them to use in summertime. (After all, slow worms eat huge numbers of slugs!)
Consider seeking land-owners’ permission to lay small sheets of corrugated iron on ‘wild’ pieces of grassland or set-aside you know of, under which snakes and slow worms can find refuge.
Become more familiar with these creatures by obtaining ‘Britain’s Reptiles and Amphibians’ by Berkshire author, Howard Inns - (press.princeton.edu/titles/9787.html) - special price of £12 from Wild Maidenhead.