Reptiles slow worm lizard grass snake

Although sometimes surprising to some, the UK is home to 6 native reptile species.

We have three snakes; the grass snake (Natrix natrix), the adder (Vipera berus) and the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca), and three lizards; the common lizard (Zootoca vivipara), the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) and the slow-worm (Anguis fragilis).

Did you know? The slow-worm is actually biologically classified as a lizard rather than a snake despite its legless appearance. This is because, unlike snakes, slow worms can blink as they still have eyelids (snakes cannot blink), and they can also shed their tails if threatened.

Only one of these species, the adder, is venomous, and although caution should be taken around all of these reptile species, they are unlikely to be aggressive unless provoked and it is much more likely that they will see you and slip away into the undergrowth before you see them!

The majority of our reptile species are found throughout England and Wales, three of these species (the adder, common lizard and slow-worm) are also found in Scotland and the common lizard is the only reptile species across Ireland. The smooth snake and the sand lizard are the two rarest species in the UK. The sand lizard is known in only a handful of localised parts of the UK, and the smooth snake only found in the dry lowland heaths and dunes of parts of Dorset, Surrey and Hampshire. Although there have been several re-introductions of these rare species into nature reserves in other areas.

Reptiles generally favour areas of long grass, heathland, dunes, and woodland with open areas or glades. Paths and open areas provide ideal basking spots where reptiles can get their warmth from the sun as reptiles cannot generate their own heat.  Reptiles are commonly encountered in the early morning when they seek out a basking spot to warm up for the day.

Want to find out more about reptiles?

Adder acorn ecology

Reptiles and the Law

In the UK it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill or injure all of our reptile species and two of our species, the smooth snake and the sand lizard, are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 meaning they are European Protected Species and it is an offence to kill, injure or even disturb these two species or destroy their habitat. Therefore if you think that you may have reptiles on your land, it is best to call in an ecologist to help identify the species and organise appropriate mitigation and licensing for them.

Grass snake on Acorn Ecology reptile survey

How do we survey for reptiles?

When we survey for reptiles on a site, we lay down tiles of bitumen roofing felt or corrugated tin in appropriate intervals around the area. These will create attractive refugia areas for reptiles to bask as the tiles usually warm up much quicker than the surrounding environment. One week after the tiles are laid, the survey can begin. This involves walking the site and checking on top of and underneath each of the tiles and recording any reptiles found.

These surveys are usually conducted in the summer months as reptiles will undergo brumation (a dormant state and type of hibernation) from around October to March as it is too cold for them. Therefore in the generally warmer weather, surveys are usually conducted in the morning if possible to attempt to see the reptiles whilst they are still basking. This survey process has to occur at least seven times on a site in appropriate weather conditions (i.e. dry and not too hot). If reptiles are present on site they can be removed to another site and this process can take several weeks so it is best to notify us as early as possible if you think you have reptiles on your site to avoid delays!

Spring and early autumn are some of the best months for surveying reptiles. The nights are cool but the days are warm, so the reptiles are drawn to the refugia to warm up each morning. With the end of the survey season approaching don’t get caught out. Call your nearest branch today to discuss your needs. Or contact Head Office on 01392 366512/info@acornecology.co.uk.

The best choice for your wildlife surveys

Exeter: 01392 366512

Bristol: Tel: 0117 923 2768 / Mobile: 07971 994324

Guildford: Tel: 01483 382821 / Mobile: 07443 652988

Would you like to keep up to date with our articles?

Sign Up >