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Heathland Reptiles

Dorset Heaths are home to all six native reptiles: Smooth snake, Grass snake, Adder, Sand Lizard, Common Lizard and Slow worm.

Heaths are excellent for all reptiles because they have warm south-facing banks for basking in the sun, plenty of insects and spiders to eat (and other lizards for smooth snakes) and places to hibernate.  Adders, grass snakes, slow-worms and common lizards can sometimes be found away from heaths in places such as on rough grassland alongside paths, forestry plantations, gardens and allotments but smooth snakes and sand lizards are only found on the heath.

An ideal reptile habitat has areas of mature heath for reptiles' food and shelter, bare sandy areas for sand lizards to lay eggs, water for grass snakes, slopes for basking, and holes, rock piles, hedgerows and half-buried log piles for hibernation and protection from predators.

Reptiles spend the winter hibernating, often in large numbers.  By October most will have gone underground, re-emerging in March or April basking in the spring sunshine.

Sand lizards and smooth snakes are endangered heathland specialists and are protected by law.  For more information contact Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (opens in a new window) for training events and volunteering opportunities.

Dogs and Snakes

Dogs are commonly bitten by snakes. However, the adder is the only venomous snake in the UK.  Adders have a zig-zag or diamond pattern along their backs.  They are commonly black and white (males) or brown and orange (females and juveniles).  Although bites are painful, they are rarely fatal.  For more information and for other Doggy First Aid, click on the link Dorset Dogs (opens in a new window) .

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