Could King Charles save the UK’s only venomous snake? Royal residences could be havens for vipers, as expert warns they could be wiped out of Britain in 15 years
- Nick Milton, who has written a book on vipers, said there are 260 sites in the UK
- He said one of the biggest threats to British vipers is pheasants on estates
The viper, the UK’s only venomous snake, could become extinct within 15 to 20 years, according to a leading expert.
Nick Milton, who has written a book on vipers, said there are only 260 snake sites left in the UK.
He told Radio 4’s Today Program that because many habitats have fewer than 10 vipers, there is a high risk of the snake being wiped out in the next two decades.
Milton said one of the biggest threats to vipers is pheasants, which can kill reptiles.
The game birds are released by the millions on shooting ranges in the United Kingdom.
Nick Milton, who has written a book on vipers, said there are only 260 sites left with the snakes in the UK.
Milton said one of the biggest threats to vipers is pheasants, which can kill reptiles. The game birds are released by the millions on shooting ranges in the United Kingdom
The changing climate also affects the snakes. Vipers normally go into hibernation in October to emerge again in March.
But now they are being seen as much as a month earlier than usual.
A 2019 survey called the Great Adder Count found that vipers are restricted to just 260 sites across Britain, and 90 per cent of those have 10 or fewer snakes on them.
“If we continue like this, most of Britain will be extinct in the next 15 to 20 years.
‘There are a number of reasons. For climate change. There’s habitat destruction, there’s more predation. Disruption, particularly of the 60 million pheasants released into the countryside each year that will kill vipers.” He said that as their numbers fall, inbreeding in vipers also puts the population at greater risk.
Mr Milton said King Charles could play a role in helping to conserve vipers as they are found on the grounds of two royal residences: Sandringham and Balmoral. He also said the country needs “viper champions” to advocate for the conservation of the snakes, which he says pose little threat to humans.
Vipers, easily identified by the diamond pattern on their backbone, can grow up to 80 cm in length and prefer woodland, heathland and moorland areas. They prey on lizards and small mammals, as well as birds that nest on the ground.